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Tygarts Creek in Kentucky

Trip Overview

We put in at N38 17 58.1 W83 10 26.3 in the town of Olive Hill. These coordinates correspond to the Cross Street bridge that crosses over Tygart's Creek. Almost immediately, we had to portage a gravelly shoal. This would be the first of many such occasions.

Much of this trip was in what appears to be remote areas, but the presence of all manner of trash was a frequent reminder of our proximity to something akin to "civilization". In particular, the "Kentucky coral reefs" (i.e., old disused tires) were numerous and were an occasional hazard. The water was a bit low this weekend I heard one of our party say it was in the range of 300 cfm...

Before long, we were away from the town enough to be seeing much more wild scenery. The trilliums and bluebells were flowering in great abundance, and upon passing close enough to the banks, one could spot hundreds of violets and even some wild ginger flowering. The rock overhangs were an awesome sight. Some were almost cavelike in their depth and overhang.

We spotted carp, kingfishers, blue herons, wood ducks, mallards, otter, coyote and even a couple of bats.

I mentioned that we had to portage many times. The most troublesome of these was at N38 19 00.9 W83 08 07.3, a small causeway near a rock quarry. There was a series of 8-10 culverts running through the causeway, and I considered the possibility of riding through one to avoid having to get out and lugging my boat over the road, etc., but I decided against it. Any more water and it would surely have been dangerous; any less water and one would have likely gotten stuck midway through. Were I much younger (and consequently more rash), I would have tried it.

Our trip planners made arrangements for us to have permission to visit some caves long the way. One cave was a "through-cave", a huge passage with a breakdown field of car-sized boulders. This passage opens up to the other side of the hill in which it is situated after about 800 feet. The other cave, much smaller, is a jagged sandstone passage that quickly constricts both vertically and laterally. In there, we spied a couple of Little Brown Bats. We went no further, not wishing to disturb the little guys.

Seven hours and 38 minutes (and 13.8 miles) after hitting the water in Olive Hill, we arrived at the take out point (N38 22 03.6 W83 06 33.9). This is located at the bridge just before entering the Carter Cave State Park.


Carter Caves State Resort - the cabins there are great.


There was a $25 trip fee for our outing, but the put in/take out spots are public and free. Visiting the caves probably requires landowner permission.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip