Canoeing on Elkhorn Creek

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Canoeing on Elkhorn Creek

Canoeing on the Elkhorn

We arrived in Frankfort, Kentucky late in the evening with rain threatening…again. But we were not disappointed that we were there to canoe the Elkhorn River and we learned on the Internet that it was at the “green” level and the water was still low. In fact, everything in Kentucky looked very green and growing greener as we drove south on highway 421. Even the sky had a greenish cast with the coming storm. We went to the historic center of the old town and saw few people but many interesting shops. The huge and impressive government buildings stood on one side of the historic area and were also devoid of people. We drove around them several times seeing only the occasional car and no fast food chains. Where was the real city we wondered? But we soon found a restaurant that served fantastic pulled pork barbecue, and the friendly waitress luckily knew where Canoe Kentucky Rental was. I had forgotten my directions in my eagerness to be on the river.

We drove into the green (green) landscape of Kentucky on a country road bordered by old stone fences for mile after mile. I later learned that we were in the center of the blue grass region. The new houses were juxtaposed next to old Southern mansions with their wide lawns and white columns, and everywhere the corn was as tall as a mastodon’s eye and the hayfields shone gold in the moonlight. the evening rose. (Mastodons and mammoths can be seen in Big Bone Lick State Park on the way back to Indiana via highway 127.) The clouds and the sun and the humidity had conspired to paint a landscape with a patina that any artist envy.

Finally we reached the small village of Peak’s Mill and we saw the old school that had been mentioned in my left direction. There was a full moon and you could make out the Canoe Kentucky rental place next to the road. We have no idea where his primitive campsite was, so we finally parked in the church parking lot, and went to ask at one of the few houses with lights in the windows at 10:00 pm.

We were given excellent directions and none too quickly as someone was looking out of the dark church window at our car. Of course, there was a cemetery right next to the church. Another twenty minutes, and we were in the camp. In the moonlight, we parked next to some other RVs before I noticed there were no cars around. I thought it must be an RV graveyard and expected to see the ghost of an old camper. Finally we found the RV Park for the living, we checked out our camper and set our clock for 7:00 am to arrive at Canoe Kentucky by 9:00 the next morning.

The Still Waters RV Park was very beautiful in the morning light. It was owned by the Strohmeiers, and Greta assured me that the ghost RVs were just RVs that were temporarily stored there. The road that ran next to the park was Strohmeier road, and the park was a well-established park with some permanent campers. The grounds were extensive and beautiful and of course very green. The camp is located on the Kentucky River at the mouth of the Elkhorn. A narrow road leading to the river guarded by a stone gate and a gate house were private​​​​Greta said. When asked why she said they drove to an old hotel where Cincinnati steamboats once stopped. Boats had traveled up the Ohio and the Kentucky River to reach the hotel. The springs and beautiful rivers and creeks like the Elkhorn with its 200-foot high limestone cliffs and white water were the attraction then as now. But now, canoeing and kayaking are added attractions.

At nine o’clock sharp we were at Kentucky Canoe Rentals and watching the canoe safety video with several other people. We were a little worried to learn that we were the only ones going on the white water section of the creek. We booked a thirteen mile trip that was part white water and part lazy river. The boys said that some kayakers had been having trouble at the dam by the Jack Daniels distillery and repeatedly warned us to go to the side and portage around. Once on the river with our two dogs, a small white Kishu and a large red Australian Cattle dog, we felt confident that we could maneuver the canoe in the fast water. The dam soon came into view, and we got to the left side and managed to carry it around, keeping to the river bank rather than trying to run the rapids below the dam. A couple of distillery employees on their break were watching so we didn’t want to make fun of them.

Soon we had thrills galore when we reached an S-curved section of rapids. There was no time to plan an attack and our boat bounced like a toy on the rocks, but the strength of the current kept us going in the right direction despite turning sideways. We are seasoned canoeists and really enjoy the challenge of class II-III rapids. It was easy to see the “Vs” when they came to the white water, and the waves were great in many of the chutes. Even in the lazy river section, there were some white water challenges. The water was clean and inviting and the sun was warm which made swimming enjoyable. The Royalex canoe was a worthy vessel. We made it through. We stayed to the right as we headed for the abutment of the bridge, so it didn’t hit the concrete wall and only had a bad encounter with branches of spaghetti filters. We stopped at lunch and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that had never tasted so good and went “down the lazy river in the midday sun” for the second leg of our trip. The total trip was about six hours and well worth the four hour drive to Kentucky from Indianapolis.

We try an old riverside tavern in the evening and have beer with a Jaegermeister hunter, a surprisingly good herbal liqueur. On the label you will find the German inscription which roughly translated means: “It is the honor of the hunter who protects and preserves his game, hunts sportily, honors the Creator in his creatures.” All the young people in the bar were drinking it, and when asked what it was, they said it was “deliciousness”. The balcony overlooked the misty and mysterious Kentucky River. The full moon lit our way back to the Still Waters Campground where we enjoyed a second night in our pop-up camper. Everywhere we saw horses in green pastures, prosperous farms with black barns and black wooden fences or old stone fences, tobacco, wheat and fields of hay and pink flowering mimosa. We heard friendly southern accents, cicadas chirping (sawing), crickets chirping, bullfrogs croaking and the air conditioner in our camper humming. It was a welcome sound in ninety degree, ninety percent humidity weather where feeling like a fish didn’t mean you wanted to eat one.

The next day we went to Frankfort and learned a lot about the history of Kentucky in the museum of the Historical Society and were surprised to find the grave of Daniel Boone in sight above Frankfort. Later we found the “new town” over the hill from the old town on the interstate and even more of the older town across the bridge over the Kentucky River. It was there that we found and visited the “new palace of the capital” which was actually not new at all, but newer than the very old one in the city. The governor’s house was modeled after the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s summer villa. We had a bookstore with the entire second floor dedicated to old books. I found a first edition of Booth Tarkington, the Pulitzer Prize winning author from Indianapolis. Attached to the bookstore was a couple of artists and a cafe where we were lucky enough to meet the mayor who invited us to a concert that evening. Rebecca Ruth’s bourbon bowls were very enjoyable and some of the houses were reminiscent of an older, grander era. The day was complete when we attended the concert in front of the beautiful old courthouse and enjoyed a band playing 80’s music and did a wonderful rendition of “Billy Jean”. The town was alive with people now, and everyone was enjoying a festive Friday. A few people we talked to said they didn’t like canoeing but liked Elkhorn Creek and some were quite impressed that we tried it. A man we talked to had been a little and loved it.

We also highly recommend the creek for canoe trips and Canoe Kentucky for their great store, Wenonah rental canoes, and the professional manner of the employees. The city of Frankfort offers southern hospitality and a sense of history, and it was interesting to see the old river city preserved in a separate area from the new city. It was a great paddle and a great trip.

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