Big South Fork in the Fall

Posted by Spalding Hurst

November 22, 2008

What compels us to venture into the outdoors during unfavorable weather?
The spirit of adventure is strong, even with snow and temperatures falling, for a group of Kentucky paddlers, the urge to explore a familiar river shed remained. A large number of paddlers did just that on a cold Sunday in November.

After a long drought through the Summer, the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River finally reached a level suitable for paddling of nine hundred cubic feet per second (cfs). As the numbers of the water gauge raised, so did the amount of paddlers seeking the thrill of whitewater.

The Bardstown Boaters, Viking Canoe Club, and Bluegrass Wildwater Association all had representation in a group of nine kayakers making their way through the scenic class four and class three rapids of the Big South Fork. Temperatures reached highs of thirty-nine degrees, the water temperature was a bit warmer than that. The wind blew at times, but these paddlers never felt the cold of the day.

The rapids are familiar. The same thousand-year-old rocks residing in their indistinguishable positions. Double Drop, Washing Machine, The El, and Ass Kicker. Yet, they all become new again when you reach the lip of the drop and prepare to make your line through the twisting whitewater.

At the bottom of the rapid, the exhilaration subdues, a steady calmness takes over and all doubts about the weather have been washed away. Rolling out of bed at seven a.m. and venturing out into the Fall’s cold morning air is now well worth it. The majesty of the Big South Fork’s high gorges and the greatness of the people who paddle them make it all extremely worth while. And the only thought that crosses your mind is, “What compels people to stay indoors during unfavorable weather, when there is so much fun to be had outside?”


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