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Kentucky River in Kentucky

Trip Overview

Kentucky River: Dam 14 to Dam 13

Today began with another scenic drive through the back roads of Kentucky. Some of the things I see just make we want to throw up my hands and just laugh theyre that incredible to me! Im someone who appreciates the simple pleasure of the view of an old farmhouse though. If youre like me youll enjoy drives like this. I had some obstacles driving these roads though. An elderly woman was slowly crossing the road after I had made a sharp turn and I was glad I had been driving cautiously. There were also stray dogs all over the place. Even sleeping near the sides! At one point I narrowly missed a very scared looking dachshund. Anyone making this drive needs to exercise extreme caution on these roads.

The put in is in Heidelberg, Kentucky off route 399 and just downriver from lock and dam 14. Its a very scenic put in and makes for a great start to a trip. I began this stretch by paddling upstream to dam 14. On Friday I had paddled downstream to this same dam and, from that side, I had noticed that a portage would have been very difficult. The dam is very high above the water now and there is no ladder. There wasnt a ladder on this side either and there didnt look to be any easy place to put in or take out a boat. More power to ya if you wanna portage this one!

After paddling to the dam, I started downriver. Just past the put in I used (theres another, seemingly private ramp on the other side of the river) is the Sturgeon Creek. I was surprised to see that theres plenty of water in this one! I thought maybe Id paddle up it a bit upon my return if I had time. Other than this, the only converging waterway on this stretch that isnt dry is Cave Branch. The other branches, Turnhole, Salt Rock, Old House, Willow and Little Willow are all dried up as they enter.

When you come up on mile 247 you see your first rock cliff on the left. This is a really nice view. Theres another one at mile 246 on the right as you come around Yellow Rock Bend. The CSX rail line continues in this stretch all the way on the right side and I began to catch glimpses of the tracks a little after this point. The track seems to follow every contour of the river. The trains come by every now and then but they dont detract from the experience. I was on the water about 6 hours and I heard/saw 4 trains go by in that time. This whole section seems very remote. At times the trains are the only signs of civilization. Thats another thing thats amazing to me. You might as well be Daniel Boone himself at times out there! Theres nothing but wilderness around you and things probably havent changed all that much since Mr. Boones time except that this river was actually in free flow back then!

I rounded the bend at the town of Yellow Rock at mile 244 and I had my first mishap of the day. I usually keep a hand towel draped over my cap to block some of the sun from the back of my neck. I dip it the water to cool me off too if I need to. Well, the only gust of wind I was to have all day blew the towel right off at this point. Despite losing 2 towels already this year I havent learned my lesson and secured them. Anyway, I paddled frantically trying to get back to it, but it was quickly saturated with water and sank just below my outstretched hand as my kayak reached it and disappeared. Oh well, from now on Ill use a clothes pin or something.

Yellow Rock had only two houses that were visible to me from the water. It looks like a neat place though. The town of Willow was a little further down at mile 242. I could only make out one dwelling there. I realize that these are extremely small towns but sometimes those are the most picturesque. Id really like to be able to see these places! Maybe Ill return to do so once the water gets higher. I know Im probably missing a lot - not only in this stretch but in my others as well. A long straightaway ends after mile 241 and here I saw my first sighting of a group of wild turkeys (Id have another sighting on my return). These are even more elusive than the herons though. I couldnt snap a picture fast enough and they were in hiding. I imagined them peering through the trees at me.

I reached dam 13 (Im gonna call them dams from now on theres no one at these things to lock boats through anyway!) at mile 240. Im gonna call this the cow portage! The take out would be on the right, but theres a farm there and there were cows grazing right at that point. The portage here looks easier than dam 14 but, again, there doesnt appear to be a ladder here. Youd have to climb the bank about 10 feet. Pavement is visible atop the bank though so you wont have to cut through underbrush. Also, theres apparently a boat ramp here which Ill try to use Wednesday for the beginning of my trip between this dam and dam 12.

When I got back to the put in I decided that I had time to check out Sturgeon creek a little. I got a couple hundred yards Id say when deadfalls impeded progress enough that I decided to turn back. It would be a nice obstacle course though! By the way, this creek is about the same width as the Middle Fork itself is about 1 mile up from its convergence with the North Fork. I thought that this was interesting. On Wednesday and Friday Ill paddle between dams 13 and 12.






KY 52 to KY 399. KY 399 to big blue bridge at Heidelberg, Kentucky. The put in I used was on the Southwest side of this bridge. Theres a large gravel lot with a boat ramp leading down from there.


"A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to Kentucky" (general info)
Kentucky River Authority Navigation Charts (specifics)
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip