Our Home Pool on the Kentucky River
The Kentucky River was commercially navigable from it’s mouth on the Ohio River 225 miles upstream to Beaytiville, KY. Now you can travel about 70 miles upriver from the Ohio River to Frankfort, KY and Pool #4 with the reopening of Locks 1 – 4 on Summer weekends. the 20 miles of calm water in Pool Four between Clifton and Frankfort make for excellent boating and fishing with a long and storied history.
In 1780, several pioneers from Bryan Station camped on a gravel bar in a double bend in the Kentucky River, about a mile upstream from where a large buffalo trail crossed the river at Leestown. The pioneers were bound for Mann’s Lick in Jefferson County to make salt.
Their camping spot was a ford for crossing the river just upstream of the the mouth of Benson Creek at Devil’s Hollow in what is now Franklin County. A marauding band of Native Americans ambushed the campers, killing pioneer Stephen Frank. This shallow bar proved a popular crossing spot on the Kentucky River for travelers coming from Lexington bound for Louisville.
The infamy of Frank’s murder resonated with the early settlers and they began to call this crossing “Frank’s Ford.” The name stuck and the city that grew up around Frank’s Ford is now the capital of the state of Kentucky. Frankfort Boat Club is located at this point in the river. The rocky bar is now gone, with the influence of Lock and Dam#4 on the Kentucky River, which provides ample depth for most water craft (6’ – 20’)
Those who want to see the capital city from a unique perspective and enjoy the sights of the Kentucky River should plan to boat Pool 4. This section of the river attracted some of the earliest settlers in Kentucky and holds the last of the soaring Kentucky River Palisades.
Pool 4 also offers some of the more overlooked and productive fishing in central Kentucky for black bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, white and hybrid striped bass and even huge muskellunge.
The highest access point on Pool 4 is Clifton Boat Ramp in Woodford County. From Versailles, take Clifton Road (KY 1964) to a left on Buck Run Road. The boat ramp lies before the marina (there is a membership fee to use this small private ramp).
Just downstream of the ramp after the river turns left, a rocky outcrop at the mouth of Ross Run protrudes from the north bank on the right. As you travel downstream, the river takes a hard left into Reindeer Lodge Bend. Soon, the rocky outcrop known as Lover’s Leap comes into view on the left, towering above the mouth of Turkey Run.
A little over a mile later, Little Benson Creek joins the Kentucky River on the left. The lower section of this creek makes a productive fishing spot. The mouth of Little Benson Creek holds crappie in spring as do the other smaller tributaries in Pool 4. These creek mouths also hold an occasional muskellunge. They also make good places to drift along enjoying nature, or casting a line
Just downstream of Little Benson Creek past the wiggle in the river known as Mulholland Bend are two rocky outcrops. Glenn’s Creek joins the Kentucky River on the right about two miles downstream of Mulholland Bend. The I-64 Bridge greets boaters near Glenn’s Creek. The bridge lies just downstream of a left-hand bend.
Just after the bridge, the Kentucky River makes a hard “S” shaped curve, beginning with a sharp bend to the left known as Big Eddy Bend. Big Eddy Bend created problems for loggers riding flatboats made of timber cut from the headwaters of the river. The nose of land jutting out into the river from the south bank created what loggers called a “whirl” or eddy and required skill to negotiate.
The river turns gently to the right and the KY 676 (East/West Connector) Bridge comes in to view. Lee’s Ramp Access appears on the left just downstream of the bridge.
After Lee’s Ramp, you will be boating through the heart of the state capital. The Kentucky State Capitol Building lies on the left. The Frankfort Cemetery sits atop the tall hill on the right, holding the bones of Daniel Boone. The houses of the South Frankfort neighborhood come into view as the river makes the sharp turn to the left, as well as the medieval castle architecture of the Kentucky Military History Museum.
The U.S. 60 Bridge in downtown Frankfort meets the boater, quickly followed by the St. Clair Street Bridge, known to locals as the “Singing Bridge.” The Frankfort Boat Ramp lies directly downstream of this bridge on the right along with the Frankfort Boat Club dock.
A large rocky bluff comes into view on the left. The old stage coach road to Shelbyville and Louisville passed under this bluff. This is the general area of the old Frank’s Ford at the mouth of Devil’s Hollow.
Benson Creek lies on the left at the railroad bridge over the river. The State Office Tower comes into view on the right. Benson Creek Boat Ramp lies just upstream on the left with an excellent boat ramp and ample parking, making for a great launch/landing spot. Boating under the twin bridges for U.S. 127 takes you to Lock and Dam 4 lies downstream. The Lock and Dam 4 is open during summer weekends, check with the Kentucky River Authority about specific lock schedules.
The right bank of the river was the end of a long arduous journey for the loggers who floated logs from the headwaters of the Kentucky River in east Kentucky to sawmills in Frankfort. The State Office Tower and Capital Plaza Hotel lie in what was once known as Crawfish Bottom, or simply the Craw to Frankfort residents. The loggers would blow off steam at the bars in the Craw for a few days of revelry and then walk back home. The Capital Plaza Hotel sits just across the levy with full service amenities.
Enjoy a day of history, scenery and boating through the heart of Kentucky’s capital city. Frankfort offers ample accommodations for boaters. The city offers interesting side trips including the Salato Wildlife Education Center at the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Headquarters off U.S. 60 west, the Kentucky History Center in downtown Frankfort as well as the Old State Capitol building a few blocks away. Downtown Frankfort offers excellent restaurants and shops within easy walking distance.