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Kentucky River in Kentucky

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

Kentucky River and Raven Run Creek

Sunday, January 1st was an unusual day in central Kentucky. Mainly because it was sunshine and mid 60s. Too much opportunity to pass up, so I persuaded the wife to join me in a day of kayaking and hiking.

We put in below I75 and headed down river the three and a half miles to the head of Raven Run Creek where I wanted to hike for the day. Very shortly after putting in we, came to a very large rock wall on the south side of the river. It was very unique in the fact that there was an obvious fault line exposed in the face of the rock. There was a rock layer on the left that was shoved at least 20 feet between two layers of rock on the right. It probably took thousands of years for the land to collide in this fashion, but only a blink of the eye in the scale of time. There were also several cave openings in the rock face that looked fairly easy to scale with all the layers of sediment as stairs. A great adventure for another day.

With in a few minutes, we entered a palisade area where the bluffs were on both sides of us. I thought it looked like a fantastic playground in the life of a young Indian brave from simpler times in the past of the area. There were at least 50 Turkey Vultures taking refuge on the ledges and in the trees on top of the bluffs. Half of them had their wing wide open basking in the ultra violet light. It looked eerie to see these large birds in a stance with their 3 and 4 foot wing span in full open form. A couple years ago I had taken the boys to a bird class, where they had introduced us to the Turkey Vulture. They gave them the credit for breaking the disease chain in the wild by eating dead and decaying animals. The acids in their stomachs could supposedly handle any type of bacteria. In fact, some of the more unfavorable facts of these birds is that they regurgitate on their enemies to drive them away, defecate on their feet to kill the bacteria from standing in rotting corpses and spread their wings in the sun to let the ultra violet rays kill the germs in their wings. The one we saw in this class got excited about being on display and upchucked at the kids sitting on the front row. One of the boys immediately got up and ran to the bathroom to follow suit. Interesting bird.

On further down, we started seeing yellow signs on the north bank. I thought they looked like faded no trespassing signs, as I couldnt read the print easily. I finally couldnt stand it anymore and paddled close to one to read it. They were signs about the area being a state of Kentucky Wild Life Preserve. Far out, we the people land. I paddled up far enough in a side creek to know that I would have to make that hike on another adventure day also.

On farther down river we passed the Kentucky-American Water pumps that water all of Lexington. The structure was massive and sent pipes up what seemed to be a 70-degree angle up the side of the mountain. There was also a waterfall on the side that was excess run off back down to the river. At first, Deb and I thought it was a natural waterfall, but it was not running on our trip back, so we knew that it was some kind of run off for the Pump house. Looked like a dream job to me, working on the river all day, every day.

Shortly there after, we came to the tail waters of the Raven Run Creek where it met the Kentucky. We were able to paddle several hundred feet up the creek till it got shallow enough to disembark. The area was beautiful. As we hiked up, the rock plates seem to become giant sidewalks and the gorge side, green mosses covered giant stairs going up on both sides. The hike was easy because of this type of geography. Deb commented that it was one of the best hikes that I have taken her on in Kentucky. Weve been on many, so I knew this one was a bit more spectacular than most. The scenery was breathtaking in its diversity of water, rock, and plant life. We hiked in for what seemed like a mile till we came to the old corn mill water wheel house foundation that I had hiked to on the land the week before. It was a grand hike and we enjoyed the moment and turned back. The day could not have been better.

On Tuesday the 3rd, I picked up Curtis and made the same paddle. Except on this one, we stopped at that creek that went into the wild life preserve and hiked in for an hour. We felt like we had only touched on that hike, so that will be finished up next Monday. We also plan to stop at the caves next Monday and do a little spelunking.

We headed on down to Raven Run so Curtis could enjoy the hike Deb and I had two days before. The weather was a bit cooler and overcast, but it was still a fine day. This time when we beached to boats, we saw another person in the woods there. I was a bit surprised, as it didnt seem easy to get down the ravine from the park as it did coming from the water. It turned out to be a local man and he considered Raven Run Creek Park to be his back yard. He seemed to know every trail and also found the creek hike to be one of the best, even though the park did not encourage its use as a trail. Curtis and I enjoyed his company and he ended up joining us on our hike back up to the old mill. Seemed that our new found friend like to hike the park often to get back to nature where he found his closest connection to his maker. I feel that a lot myself. It seemed he had many things in common with both Curtis and I and before we parted, we traded email addresses with plans to hike or kayak together in the near future. It was kind of amazing; I didnt expect to find anyone in that Ravine, yet I found a friend. Devine intervention, I assume.

On the way back to our put in we passed the water plant again. This time they were just turning on the overflow that cascaded down the side off the mountain. It was amazing as there was a large volume of water coming down, but it only seemed to fall about two foot a minute. It was like it had to fill up a great underground pool before it could continue on down to the next two foot. We sat there for what seemed like 10 minutes watching this large deluge of water slowly make its way down this mountainside. There were also two workers on the structure. They hollered at us to inquire where we put in at and where we were going to. We told them, and I asked where I could get an application to work with them. They commented that they thought we worked with some kind of Government River Watch group and thats what we were doing in the area. Curtis and I both got a kick out of this, as we wondered why these people would assume that, especially in their type of work. Actually, we probably didnt want to know the answer to that. We informed them that we were there purely for recreational reasons. Im sure they dont see kayakers in the Kentucky River that time of year very often.

Today and Sunday were absolutely fine days for hiking and kayaking. A lot of the hiking was through the middle of creeks using their beds as trails. So it was another challenge to see if I could walk through water up to 4 and 5 inches deep in the winter and not get wet and uncomfortable. It managed to work out both days for me. Curtis on the other hand, in his young nature, took more daring jumps, leaps, crossings, and eventually plunges. But, even though his feet got wet, he said it was warm enough that they were not uncomfortable. He also said he plans to have another type of boot before our next kayak, hike, spelunk trip next Monday. I can hardly wait myself.


There is a rough put in that may be chained off, if so, you have a hundred yards or so carry. Circle H bar is close by to wet your wistle at days end.


If the ramp is open (or unchained) there is a 4 dollar launch fee.


I75 south of Lexington, exit 99, head down the mountain side to the river, enter under the interstate.

Trip Details

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

Trip Location