The Parklands

8 Simple Tips to Paddling Safely on Floyds Fork

Canoers and kayakers of Kentucky are used to doing a bit more pushing, pulling, and walking versus floating during the months of June and July.  We’re all used to carrying watercraft through low flowing creeks and rivers in the summer heat. (More tips on that here.)This July has been a much different story.

With 10 inches of rain in the last three days, and temperatures staying a tick lower than average, Floyds Fork has reached historic flood levels twice, and remained well above normal flows for most of the month. This means we have a much different paddling experience this summer than normal.  And it’s important that everyone recognize that the Fork is not a theme park – this is not a regulated stream. It is a wild experience and has naturally occurring hazards that come with most outdoor adventure opportunities. So, before you head out, make sure you are prepared.

Here are some tips for folks thinking about taking advantage of the higher than normal flows.

  1. When the flow of Floyds Fork surpasses 1,000 cfs (cubic feet per second), we think it best to leave paddling to people with advanced boating skills and abilities. Above 2,000 cfs you’ll likely find paddling accesses closed due to high water.
  2. Always. Always! ALWAYS! wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket. Not only is wearing a life jacket smart, it is a legal requirement if you are on the water. And, just having the jacket in the boat with you is not enough – wear it.
  3. Go with a group, including one person with knowledge of the section you will be floating. This is especially important after flood events when debris and trees can be frequently encountered within the stream.
  4. Know the ability of each person in your paddling group. This means knowing your own skills and abilities before you get onto the water. If you feel well outside of your comfort zone and ability, don’t push yourself. There are no “hero” moments in paddle sports. Remember, the Fork will always be there. If the water seems too high (or fast) for your comfort level, simply come back to paddle at a lower level. Spend the rest of the day hiking or any number of other outdoor activities available in The Parklands.
  5. Tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Maybe you’re running a bit late after stopping for food, or it took you longer than expected to make it to your take-out site, but at least this way, if you don’t show up when you say you will, someone will know when and where to start looking.
  6. Drive to the take-out site prior to floating so that you can identify it from the water and know where to get out. While signage is up through the park noting the river mileage and access spots, it can be easy to miss these when you’re taking in nature or busy paddling. Orient yourself to the take out before you even get on the water – this will save you a long walk back should you miss your exit point.
  7. Take a paddling class/lesson before coming out to the water. You can do this through any number of local paddling clubs or organizations in the area. Use social media outlets to get in touch with the two biggest paddling groups in the area – Viking Canoe Club and the Louisville Area Canoe and Kayak Group.
  8. Before you even head out the door, check the weather forecast and real-time water conditions using an app such as RiverApp or by scanning the QR Code on our Paddling Recommendations flyer. “Real-time” water level information is on The Parklands website.

Remember, The Parklands does not maintain Floyds Fork. This is a free-flowing river that is navigable for non-motorized watercraft. It is a great river to experience, but only when the water level and your ability as a paddler align. So, follow the recommendations above to help ensure a great time on The Fork.

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