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Kentucky River (Middle Fork) in Kentucky

Trip Overview

I had decided on Monday to try the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River today and, if I was able, some of the converged main river. The trip began as it did the last time - an encounter with my friend the goose at the boat ramp put in. A little more aggressive this time, I needed to put my paddle between us as a buffer at one point. Things turned out OK again though and I paddled off about 11AM. Incidentally, for any interested paddlers in central KY, the Beattyville boat ramp (which I will from now on refer to as 'Mother Goose Ramp') is about an hour and a half to an hour and a quarter from Lexington.

As you do start off from this ramp you're hearing cars from the KY 11 and KY 52 bridges overhead. You may also hear the sound of trains passing as there is a train track off to your left as you start up river. I began paddling toward to convergence of the North and Middle forks. At about mile 1 of the converged North/Middle Fork I passed Brain Creek which was pretty well dried up as are almost all of the creeks and branches. At about this same point is the Beattyville municipal water intake. No signs of life here though. I wondered if it's still being used.

After passing what looked to be a private boat ramp on the right, I came to a point around mile 2 where they had cut through a mountain to make room for a road which passes close to the river. It was a pretty nice picture shot. I took it. Coming around a fairly tight bend, I came upon what the navigational charts say is the CSX railroad bridge at mile 3. A train coming across right as I got to the bridge made for a nice memory of today's trip. After the bridge the river straightens and just before mile 4 you get to the convergence of the Middle and North forks.

I started up the Middle Fork wondering how far I would get. On Monday I didn't get far up the South Fork before having to portage. Quickly I found that the hazard on this fork would be deadfalls. The water is so low that there turned out to be some which covered the entire length of the river. I hadn't gone 1/2 mile before I hit the first one. This was actually kinda fun though. Testing your skills and trying to see if you can actually float through some of these makes for an interesting challenge! I went through a second deadfall and was coming up on a third when I began to see cattle on both sides of the shore. All of a sudden the thought hit me that there are sometimes bulls among the cows. If I were to be charged by a bull at this point, he just might be able to get to me with the water level this low. Maybe this was too cautious, but I began to paddle back. I did so with extreme reluctance though. I had only gone about a mile and I was having fun with the deadfalls!

On the way back I had a trial at the first deadfall. As I hit the most difficult part, where I had just ducked my head under the base of a fallen tree to get under it - two things happened at the same time. I got snagged by a branch which completely halted my progress right at that point and a moighty spoida (Steve Irwin accent) fell right into my lap! I waved my hand over the spider hoping to catch the web and was able to do so. The spider lifted right off my leg and I was able to get it out of the boat. The rest was dealt with in a less hectic fashion and I was off again.

I paddled back to mother goose ramp and decided that since my Middle Fork experience had ended fairly quickly that I had time to go down the main river to lock and dam 14 at mile 249. According to my navigation charts the ramp is at mile 256 of the river. This 14 mile round trip would be the beginning of my paddle down the main river.

After the convergence of the 3 branches Beattyville is on the right. I noticed that the converged Crystal and Silver Creeks are dried up at this point. As I passed through Beattyville there began a train track which ran all the way down past lock 14 and beyond. This turned out to be a consistent sight on the right bank. Also interesting is the fact that there always seems to be farmland on one side of the river and forested hills on the other. This alternates from side to side but very seldom do you see both or neither on each side of you. I've noticed this on all my Kentucky River trips in the past as well. What is a constant though on both banks is a 15-20 foot flat 'ledge'. I take it that this is the level at which the water usually flows.

The river is slowly winding in this stretch. I noticed that Mikes Branch at mile 253 is nearly dried up and Dirksen Branch at 252 is totally dried up. Contrary Creek at 251 is just that - contrary. It seems to have more water than any creek or stream I've seen yet (unless you count the Middle Fork which looks more like a swollen creek!). After this creek there is a long straightaway which ends at lock 14.

Once I got to lock 14 I was glad that I decided to do this river in circuitous routes. A portage here would have been extremely difficult and probably would have ended my trip already! There are no ladders that I could see and nowhere to take out. Out of interest I paddled to shore and climbed up the 15-20 feet to the ledge and I was in an overgrown field. I'd love to see portages put into these dams if money could be raised. Maybe they could put in campgrounds too! OK - dreaming! I'd love to see more kayaks out on the river though. There's a great recreational opportunity here which is not being used to the fullest.

The paddle back was uneventful but it was interesting to explore the other bank. There were no creeks or streams connecting on this side that were evident. As I came to the town of Proctor near the convergence of the forks and across the river from Beattyville I saw what looked to be a private boat ramp. Not sure though. Upon return to mother goose ramp around 7PM I politely maneuvered around said fowl and a duck. I love ducks! I find them hilarious for some reason. Cows too. I digress...

Friday I plan to do the North Fork. We'll see how far I can get on that. I'll also begin scouting for Monday's trip between lock and dams 13 and 14 and see where I might be able to put in.






KY 11 to Beattyville. Go east on East Main to Water Street (2nd street) and take a left. This street ends with a boat ramp.


"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