Paddlers from all over the world are about to descend on the friendliest little whitewater town in the east. Every weekend in October, Elkhorn City will be filled with kayakers, canoeists and other random water junkies to challenge their skills on the legendary Russell Fork.
This year’s season is highlighted by the USA Canoe & Kayak wildwater team trials, the first such event to be held in Kentucky. Competitors from all over the country will arrive for the two events on October 15-16 that will determine the USA wildwater team for next year’s World Whitewater Championships in Europe.
Saturday’s downriver event sends individual racers down a 2 mile course ending in downtown Elkhorn City. These racers will compete in the sprint race on Sunday at the Breaks River Access. Over 50 competitors are expected.
This premier event isn’t the only attraction for the month. The 4th annual Baddlun on the Russell Fork, an extreme triathlon featuring biking, kayaking, and running, is at noon, October 8. The first annual Baddlun-lite (less extreme) is at 4pm, also on the 8th. It will be followed by the annual Paddler Appreciation cookout at Elkhorn Beach.
The 15th annual Lord of the Fork extreme downriver race returns on October 22. This race brings the best downriver kayakers in the world into the Breaks Gorge trying to post the fastest time through 2 miles of Class V rapids. Last year’s winner, from New Zealand, will return to defend his title. There’s extra incentive this year, as a cash prize is being offered for the male and female with the best accumulated times in the three biggest extreme races in US whitewater: the Animal on the Gauley River, the Lord of the Fork on the Russell Fork, and the Green River Race.
The Russell Fork is a world recognized whitewater river with sections for every level of paddling enthusiast. The Breaks gorge is the best known section, 4.5 miles of Class V rapids and waterfalls. Commercial rafting is available on the upper and lower sections of the Russell Fork. Both sections are class III.
The colors of the fall season combined with hundreds of boaters and adventure seekers make Elkhorn City a must visit in October. For more information about whitewater, check out www.russellfork.info. For more about Elkhorn City, visit www.elkhorncity.org.
With the last leg of my four-year adventure of traveling the entire 370 miles of the Green River only 8 hours from completion, we eagerly start at the boat ramp in western Daviess County. From the boat ramp we travel past small rural communities of Birk City, Bluff City, and Spottsville. The highlight of the trip was traveling through lock and dam #1 in Spottsville.
Entering the dam’s locks was a nervous experience. If you don’t know the rules of traveling through a dam, it’s simple. Once arriving close to the gates, you’ll find a chain to pull. All dams have pull-chains, and as soon as you give a tug, sirens go off, much like tornado warning sirens. The siren alerts the dam employees that the gates need to be opened. We were so startled by the noise that we feared we’d done something wrong. But we soon looked up to see an employee laughing at the sight of our two man plastic 4 HP boat.
“Can we pass through the dam?” I asked as the assistant stood high above me.
“You pay taxes?” Responded the attendant.
“Do you have a life jacket?”
“Then I’ll open it up and let you through”
As the doors slowly opened, we entered the enormous lock chamber. Once in the chamber, the doors closed behind us. Again, fear crept back and I felt nervous, isolated and somewhat intimidated because I did not know what was going to happen next. When the water started dropping, I felt nothing and surprisingly had no sensation of the lowering water. The wet walls were the only indication of the water level dropping. The entire process took only twelve minutes to drop the water seven feet.
With the “dam” experience behind us, we travel less than two hundred yards and reach the Highway 60 Spottsville Bridge and CSX railroad bridge. The railroad bridge is fascinating. It rotates one way to allow trains to pass over, while rotating another way which disconnects itself from the main rail line to let barges pass beside it.
From there we travel just 10 miles to the mouth of the Ohio River and exit at a barge repair company called Triple S. In this area you’ll see many tug boats carrying both full and empty barges. The water can actually get rough in this area because of the barge traffic. The twin bridges connecting Henderson, KY and Evansville is approximately 5 miles from here.
My adventure I’ve documented by writing four blogs on this website. In my opinion, the Green River is one of the greatest rivers in America. In the beginning, we traveled 100 miles from the Green River Dam in Campbellsville, to the Green River ferry in Mammoth Cave National Park. For 100 miles the water is crystal clear and never over 4 foot deep. It’s wasn’t uncommon to see a Long Nose Gar with a blue gill in its mouth, beavers swimming under your boat and looking up to view Great Blue Heron Rookeries. Fishing for small mouth bass is a must! We spent 4 nights camping and eating fish we caught and we caught a lot.
During trip # 2 we traveled from the Green River Ferry in Mammoth Cave National Park to Morgantown, which is in Butler County. Fishing was great, and we even crossed two in-tact 20 foot dams, although abandoned since the 50’s. Crossing a dam is extremely dangerous, so if you don’t know where they’re located, make sure you take a map. Also, bring a couple of ten dollar bills. Since there are always fishermen who have pickups, offer them ten dollars to load up your boat and take you to the other side.
Trip #3 was from Morgantown Kentucky to Calhoun (in McLean County). There are two more in-tact dams which are not passable. They don’t just fall straight down but are category 5+ rapids which can’t be navigable. Again, someone will always be fishing around these dams and will be more than glad to take you around them. Once you cross over the Rochester Dam, you’re in Muhlenberg County, and this is where barge traffic starts. The river also starts getting very deep (25-40 feet). It’s a beautiful and quiet trip on to Calhoun. There are small communities throughout the Green River in which you can stop and resupply yourself. Travel light, knowing this fact. From Cromwell, which is in Ohio County until the end in Henderson, expect to see many Bald Eagles. We camped 2 nights on this trip.
Trip #4 was from Calhoun to Henderson. The Green widens and fishing gets harder. There’s huge catfish in this area, but you’ll have to know what you’re doing to catch them. With small mining communities in this area, you can stop and fish in strip pits, hidden all along the counties of Muhlenberg, Ohio, Mclean and Henderson counties. Left over by abandoned coal companies, you’ll identify these hidden bodies of water by noticing water flowing off the banks or witness water flowing through drainage tiles. There are three types of bait you need to take through the entire trip and you’ll catch fish. A weedless worm (purple and dark green) floating Repella and colored rooster tails. We camped 2 nights.
We always took two trucks. Parking one at the town where we put out and taking the other to where we would put in.
The Green river is considered one of the natural great wilderness rivers in the United States. Why not conquer it and check it off your Bucket List?
THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF TRAVEL
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