Cart |

Kentucky River in Kentucky

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

A bad day paddling is better than a good day at work. The last two Mondays were not necessarily bad, they were just a bit disappointing.

I decided to put in at a new place, at a bridge that crosses the Kentucky at Irvine. Curtis couldnt join me this day, so it started out a quite solemn day. I went up river a bit and came to a creek on the south bank and decided to explore that. I couldnt get very far up the creek before I ran into a large log and debris dam that went from shore to shore. Disappointed, I went back out and headed on up river.

With in a couple miles, I came to lock and dam #12. The area was a nice area; there was a large sandy embankment on the south side that could set a camp for a hundred people. And the north bank was well groomed and kept area with a golf course. But as with every dam I come to on the Kentucky, the lock was non-operational and concreted shut. If you read up on the Kentucky River on Google or other web sites, they say it is navigate-able. That is a lie. They just dont want the general public to know its a lie. And there is no take out or put in spots on either side of the lock or dam.

I managed to clamber out of my boat on both sides and spent a good time cussing the state for not making it possible for small boats like mine to get around the dam and continue the journey. It just isnt right. Its a broken promise. I again felt the plight of my ancient Indian brother who would cry to see they could not paddle their birch canoes up this river that once ran free. I thought I could stand there and mope all day or I should just hire a lawyer and sue the state for a grant to put in take outs and put ins around these dams for small boats like mine. Surely the folks that read these stories would help me lobby for that. I enjoyed a few sips of wild turkey and headed back down river.

This time when I got back to the side creek, I felt a little more bullet proof and decided I could plow through the log and debris dam. And damned if I didnt. Should have tried harder the first time. There was a maze of creeks up this side water. I paddled for a couple hours till I figured it was time to turn or get caught in the darkness. So I ventured back out.

The following Monday, Curtis joined me and I decided we should start the day with a total exploration of the side creek. Curtis was excited as he said some of the best agate is found in creeks in Estill county.

The first thing I noticed when we got to the river is that it had dropped by three to four feet. I figured it would make a large difference on the creek in its depth and how far we could make it into the head waters. But it made more of a difference than that. It had caused the log and debris jam to lock up even tighter and thicker. We tried from every angle and could not plow through it. I even got stuck in it once and thought I would not be able to get back out.

Disgruntled, we paddled back up to the lock and dam. This time, instead of cussing the concrete lock, I tried to sell the idea to Curtis to petition the state to give us a grant to build take outs and put ins around each of the dams. I figured if we kept the operation small, we could be partners on it and subcontract all the labor out in each community we worked in. Every one would win. He liked the idea, but it is still just an idea and will take a lot of research and paper-work to make it a reality.

We headed back down and passed up our put in spot to do a little more exploring. On down the river we came to another feeder creek that had a train tunnel over the river. We heard one train go over it on the way down and saw one more when the tunnel was in view. The tunnel itself was about a 7 foot arch off the water and around a hundred feet long. You couldnt see daylight through it unless you were right at the opening. We paddled through it and up the creek till the water got to shallow to paddle. We turned then and paddled back to the tunnel. We sat in the tunnel for at least twenty minutes in hopes of a train going over and feeling the power of the moment. We have managed to do that in many locations. It seems that almost every fourth time we go out, we come across a train bridge. It has become a wonder to sit under the bridge to feel the power of the train. My complements to high bridge, not a single vibration could be felt on the supports in the river from the train barreling over the bridge above. But no train was to come for us this day. So we headed back to our put in and headed home.

Not the best days of paddling, but better than a day at work. And tomorrow we go again


Concrete put in beside bridge


Hwy 52 East out of Richmond all the way to the river in Irvine

Trip Details

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location