Issuu on Google+

Page 20 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures


Page 2 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 19


Page 18 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

photos courtesy www.russellfork.info

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 3


Page 4 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 17

It’s not all whitewater BY STEVE RUTH CONTRIBUTING WRITER Whitewater season is a good time to talk about all the other outdoor adventures available around Elkhorn City. It's not hard to see why the little town on the edge of Pike County is consistently recognized as a destination for all types of adventure and eco-tourism. If you like the outdoors, there's something here for you. Nestled at the mouth of the Breaks Canyon, the town is at the intersection of two established cross country trails: the legendary 76 Trans-America bicycle trail now in its 33rd year, and the brand new Great Eastern Trail (GET), a hiking/multi-use trail that parallels the Appalachian Trail, running from southern Alabama to the Finger Lakes State Park in upstate New York. Elkhorn City is the northern trailhead for the Pine Mountain Trail, which will be one of the primary routes of the GET, which will continue northeastward through the county crossing into West Virginia at Matewan. Anglers are getting the word the Russell Fork is an accessible and reliable trout stream regularly stocked upstream and downstream of town. Natural smallmouth bass and walleye are also abundant. Canoe and flat-water kayakers are regularly float-fishing downstream of Elkhorn City toward Millard and the Levisa Confluence. The county is developing river access points in Elkhorn and downstream to Pikeville and further downstream toward Prestonsburg and establishing the Russell Fork River Trail. Elkhorn City was one of the first small towns in the state to make ATVs legal to operate on roads within city limits. It is quickly becoming a hub for clubs who can follow several routes outside and

around town. The return of all sorts of wildlife to the area in recent years has made the area a destination for bird-watchers, wildlife photographers and nature hikers. Bear, deer and elk, river otter and beaver, blue heron and osprey are all visible to lucky watchers in the right places. There are active horseback riding clubs and stables in the area that offer guided rides in and around the Breaks and up the Pine Mountain Trail. Knott County’s recent success is a real model that could take off here, in a more scenic area. For several years, boaters have been hauling their mountain bikes to town to tackle the world-class biking trails in the Breaks Park and some of the rougher fare around town. Word of mouth alone has made local mountain bike trails the stuff of legend on the internet. A dedicated local group of bikers has built, maintained and continued to expand those trails which have been recognized by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Hundreds of cross country bicyclers pass through Elkhorn City each season, travelling one way or the other from Jamestown, Virginia to Astoria, Oregon on the 76 Trans-America route. Elkhorn City is a recommended stop on maps for camping, shelter, food and eccentric behavior. Walkers and hikers have an endless supply of possibilities, from the Blueline Trail around Elkhorn City to a labyrinth of trails in the Breaks Park to the Pine Mountain Trail. Anyone interested in trailbuilding in the area should contact either the Elkhorn City Area Heritage Council or the Pine Mountain Trail Conference. And then, of course, there's the world famous whitewater.

photo courtesy Steve Ruth

Happy visitors leave dollars for the local economy. The 2008 paddler's appreciation cookout fed 200 boaters who made their happiness known through donations and return trips.

photo courtesy Steve Ruth

Pike County's own old-time super-group, Larry Webster and the Mule Band, wow the crowd at the 2008 Rendezvous. The recent East Kentucky Comprehensive Adventure Tourism Plan predicted the type of activities Elkhorn City has to offer can have an economic impact of $90 million per year to the region. These could generate 1,500 new full-time jobs in the region.

As the Adventure Tourism Capital in eastern Kentucky, Elkhorn City could see a good share of those benefits. It's up to the people of Elkhorn City and Pike County to make it happen. www.elkhorncity.org for more information.


Page 16 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Get the adrenaline pumping at Breaks Interstate Parks – the “Grand Canyon of the South.” Spanning the Virginia/Kentucky border, “The Breaks” is one of two interstate parks in the nation. Class IV-VI rapids on the Russell Fork River run through the park, making for some of the best whitewater rafting on the East Coast. Breaks Interstate Park is one of only two Interstate Parks in the nation. The park encompasses 4,500 acres of greenwood lands and mountain scenery, including the "Grand Canyon of the South". Histor y: More than 180 million years ago, the Breaks Park and surrounding area were covered by a vast inland sea. As time passed and the earth's climate and land areas changed, the sea receded, and what is now the Russell Fork River began to carve the beautiful, immense gorge that we now call "the Breaks." In more recent times, the Cherokee and Shawnee Indian tribes used this region as their sacred hunting ground. John Swift is said to have buried a treasure of silver somewhere in the gorge. But it was Daniel Boone who is credited with discovering the Breaks in 1767 as he attempted to find improved trails into Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley. The Breaks was a very rare passageway, or break, across the 125-mile long Pine Mountain. However, an abundance of copperheads and rattlesnakes, treacherous terrain, and thick forestation forced him to turn back, making "the Breaks" a noteworthy end to his journey. In 1954, through the joint efforts of Virginia and Kentucky, the United States Congress created the Breaks Interstate Park, a 4,600 acre tribute to the unmatched rugged beauty of this natural wonder. It boasts the deepest chasm east of the Mississippi River and is also unique in another way the Breaks Park is one of only two interstate parks in the country. With plenty of recreation, beautiful scenery, affordable lodging, and friendly faces, your trip to Breaks Interstate Park will be one to remember.

Directions: The park is located in northern Dickenson County, where Dickenson/Buchanan County, Va., and Pike County, Ky., converge. From Haysi in northern Dickenson County, take VA 80 8 miles north to the park entrance, on the left. The park is located 7 miles east of Elkhorn City, Ky., on KY-VA 80. Activities: Swimming, hiking, boating, whitewater rafting (seasonal), whitewater canoeing and kayaking (with your own craft), and horseback riding. Pond fishing for bass and bluegill, and river fishing for bass, trout, and walleye. Facilities: Visitor center, campground (electric, water, and sewer available; alcohol not allowed), restaurant, gift shop, housekeeping cottages, motor lodge, pool and snack bar, hiking trails, bike trail, boat dock and rental boats, stable and rental horses, fishing lake (license may be purchased at visitor center), picnic shelters. Primitive camping allowed in backcountry by permit. Dates of Operation: Gates: open year-round. Visitor center: open April 1 - Oct 31. Campground: open April 1 - Oct. 31. Restaurant and gift shop: open April 1 Dec. 21. Cottages: open year-round. Motor lodge: open year-round Pool and snack bar: open Memorial Day weekend - Labor Day. Boat dock: open seasonally. Riding stable: open seasonally. Fees: A fee is charged for admission, and for campsites, cottages, motor lodge, picnic shelters, pool, pedal boats, and horse rides. Closest towns: Elkhorn City, Ky., is on KY 80 in Pike County, 5 miles west of the park entrance. Haysi, Va., is on VA 80 in Dickenson County, 8 miles south of the entrance. F o r m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n : Breaks Interstate Park, PO Box 100, Breaks, VA 24607-0100. Phone (276) 865-4413 or 4414 for motor lodge reservations. www.breakspark.com

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010• Page 5

Elkhorn City is potential site for 2011 U.S. Wildwater National Team Trials Race SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-EXPRESS The USA Canoe and Kayak Association (USACK) is considering a bid to bring the Wildwater National Team Trials Race to the Russell Fork river in Elkhorn City, Kentucky in 2011. The race will be used to select the members of the national team for competition in the 2012 World Championship Races in Europe. Jack Ditty, former organizer of the Russell Fork Gorge Race and current member of the US National Wildwater Team, submitted the bid to the USACK. “We hope to convince the USACK wildwater committee that Elkhorn City, Ky. is one of the best sites in the countr y for high-level race competition,” Ditty said. Most wildwater races consist of two separate competitions; a “sprint” race

and a “classic” race. The sprint course is usually 500 meters long, and takes about 90 seconds from beginning to end. The classic course is usually two to four miles long, and takes about 20 minutes. Participants use sleek, lightweight kayaks or canoes and years of paddling experience to negotiate the complex rapids along the course. The wildwater style of racing is ver y popular in Europe, and the U.S. hopes to take a strong team there for competition in 2012. The race bid for Elkhorn City depends on securing a scheduled water release from Flanagan Dam, operated by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. “The team trials needs to happen before the end of the summer, for the team to get organized and start training for the international races, so we’re hoping to get dam releases scheduled for Aug. 19-21, 2011,” Ditty

said. “This might require a bit of local support to help convince the dam operators to arrange the release. The return for the community would be a large number of people spending tourist dollars in the local region during a weekend in August, along with attracting new whitewater paddlers to the region that might return again during the October dam release season.” The proposed team trials sprint race would be held at Ratliff Hole, one of the river access points within Breaks Interstate Park, and the finish line for the classic race would be in downtown Elkhorn City. Competitors would be expected to travel from all regions of the countr y for the race. “Wildwater racing is popular in the Mid-Atlantic states, the Southeast, the Rocky Mountains, and the PacificNorthwest, so we would expect groups from at least all of these regions to show up for the race,” Ditty said.

In addition to those that are vying for a spot on the national team, there will also be an open race categor y, so that recreational kayakers can compete as well. Ditty, of Morgantown, W.Va., and Steve Ruth, a local paddler from Elkhorn City, have been paddling the whitewater of the Russell Fork for at least the past 14 years, and realized the potential of the Breaks Interstate Park and Elkhorn City as a great venue for national level competition. “I’ve competed in whitewater races all over the United States and in Europe, and none of those sites compare to the quality of the whitewater, the spectacular scener y, the great facilities available within the Breaks Park, and the welcoming attitude of the people of Elkhorn City,” Ditty said. “I’d love to see the fastest whitewater paddlers in the countr y show up to compete on this river.”


Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 15

Page 6 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

2nd Annual Russell Fork Free for All SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-EXPRESS

The Lord of the Fork BY STEVE RUTH CONTRIBUTING WRITER The annual Russell Fork Gorge extreme race, entering its 16th official year, was renamed the Lord of the Fork race in October 2004 in honor of Jon Lord who died in the gorge in January of that year. Jon was a well known extreme kayaker when he moved to Pikeville in 1999 as part of Kellogg management at the Cookie Factory. Working for Kellogg, you moved around to get up through management and Jon had more than one choice for his next assignment. He chose Pikeville for its proximity to the Russell Fork and its nearly year-round flow. Jon immediately fell into the local boating group who introduced him to the great lower levels on the river. He was a veteran of many release seasons, but hadn’t seen the river and canyon at the lower levels it runs most of the year. It didn’t take long to make a believer out of him. Whether running low or high, he always wanted to hit the river. He was a bigger-than-life character, usually loud, always the first one down the rapid. Jon pushed us to work our boating skills, to paddle harder streams, to challenge more difficult conditions. I got to show him a couple of the better low water lines in the gorge and he returned the favor by showing me down

Can you swim? Do you have a boat that can handle class II/III whitewater? Do you like to have fun for no apparent reason? The second annual Russell Fork Freefor-All is the event for you! On Saturday, October 2, we’ll gather at Ratliff Hole for a massstart race 2.5 miles downstream to the Elkhorn Beach. Wor thless prizes and instant notoriety will be up for grabs as we determine the fastest, the slowest, the ugliest, most creative and the most likely to sink on this fun run into town. There’ll be many classes, depending on how many types of craft actually enter (kayak, raft, duckie, etc). Race start is 3pm, at the Ratliff Hole River Access. All participants will be required to wear proper whitewater safety gear (helmet and lifejacket) and be in a craft that will probably make it. Limited shuttle will be provided, but selfshuttle is appreciated. There’s a $1 entr y fee. If you don’t want to race, come on down to Elkhorn Beach and watch the fun! The award show will be at the Russell Fork Rendezvous, Saturday evening, October 2. For more information or to donate wor thless prizes, visit www.russellfork.info.

several creeks and rapids I’d never run. He was brutally honest and would say, you’ve got this or you oughta walk this if he thought you weren’t ready. He was generally right. Jon loved to give his friends a hard time, always kidding and taunting when you wrecked or swam. Before hitting the river he’d ask somebody if they had a throw rope, usually knowing the answer beforehand. When that person inevitably said “No,” he’d toss them his and say, “Here, you might need to rescue me.” The joke being a throw rope isn’t for yourself, it’s to save your paddling buddy. That person would usually have a rope the next time. Jon also liked to say, “It’s okay to be cold.” Before Jon came around, few of the locals paddled from December into February. But Jon loved winter boating, in snow and ice, when the conditions were at their most raw. You’d see him in the same pair of paddling shorts no matter how cold it was. It’s okay to be cold. So it was a bit fitting that Jon would meet his demise on a cold Sunday in January on the Russell Fork. The accident was on a dangerous drop, Tower, but one he had slicked a couple hundred times. The river was at a tricky level and the line at Tower was borderline. He couldn’t have been with two better paddling partners, both trained and skilled in emergency situations. Both top-level

boaters. One had chosen the easier line, one had run the hard line first before Jon. N e i t h e r boater saw exactly what happened, didn’t know anything was wrong before noticing Jon’s paddle floating out of the rapid. They had to climb onto a rock in the center of the river to see where he was, trapped at the bottom of the drop. They hit him with throw ropes, but it was too late. His boat, and he, were pinned to the bottom of the drop, the river rushing over his back and head. With no way to extract him, they had to paddle out to contact emergency services. Jon’s death deeply affected paddlers all across the eastern United States. More than 20 paddlers dropped everything and came to Elkhorn the night he died to help with extracting his body the next morning. Unfortunately, his body was lost when the recovery team arrived and the search, with many boaters staying on, carried on for a week, mostly in sub-freezing weather. After a week and the river rising, the search was called off.

Jon’s body was found four weeks to the day following his drowning. Appropriately, a small group of local boaters happened upon him near the state line after a couple of days of warmer weather toward the end of February. With help from the railroad and emergency personnel, we brought him out to his family. Jon left behind a wife and two small children. There’d be no more wondering for them, or for his friends. The paddling community misses Jon Lord. Bottom line, he was a lot of fun to be around. He got a lot out of his short time in this world and many of us were blessed to be a part of it.

October Schedule of Events in Elkhorn City SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-EXPRESS The 2010 Russell Fork whitewater season brings a great assortment of activities for everyone to enjoy. We kick off the season this year with the 2nd annual Russell Fork Free for All, an “anything that floats” fun race down the lower section from the Ratliff Hole access about 2.5 miles downstream to Elkhorn Beach. Worthless prizes will be awarded in several categories, including first, last, most likely to sink, best costume, most impressive watercraft, and anything else we can think of. Participants are required to wear a lifejacket/pfd and helmet. There will be a $1 entry fee and the event will begin at 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 2. Join us by floating or watch at the beach! The 15th annual Russell Fork Rendezvous will also return to the first release weekend with camping, live music on Saturday, food, fireworks, videos, and

friendly people. The Rendezvous will be held on Carson Island in Elkhorn City, Oct. 1 through Oct. 3. There will be a $10 admission fee. It’s not all whitewater in Elkhorn City in October, though. The Artists Collaborative Theatre will be presenting “Honky Tonk Angels,” great music and talent through October 10. Visit, www.act4.org for schedule and ticket information. The fourth annual Baddlun on the Russell Fork is set to begin at noon, Saturday, Oct. 9. This extreme triathlon features biking from Ratliff Hole to Bartlick, paddling from Bartlick to Carson Island and running from Carson Island to Ratliff Hole, with a swim across the river to end. The race covers about 28 miles and includes biking over two mountains on a winding road, paddling four miles of class V river, then running over another mountain on a dirt/rock trail. Last year a dozen competed, this year more are expected.

The paddler appreciation cookout sponsored by the Elkhorn City Heritage Council will begin at 5 p.m., Oct. 9, at Carson Island. This year will be hamburgers, hotdogs and other goodies on the big grill. Show a standard piece of gear you just wore on the river and get free food! The 2009 Lord of the Fork extreme downriver race was the overall fastest on record. More than 40 racers broke the 11-minute barrier, including the first ever sub-10 minute run by a non-wavehopper. The world’s best downriver paddlers will dash down the class 5-5.1 Russell Fork gorge from Let’s Make a Deal through Climax. This year it will begin at 2 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 23. For histor y of the race, more information on all events and pictures, visit, www.russellfork.info. Whitewater releases from Flanagan Reser voir are scheduled for October 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, and 23-24. Release times are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

photos courtesy www.russellfork.info


Page 14 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 7

Continued From Page 13 boys with iPod earphones in their ears or cell phones in their hands, texting the day away. Instead, they were observing their environment, taking in the sights, noticing squirrels and bridges and making games out of counting trees. Even when their canoes flipped, they never skipped a beat. “Those boys were adventurous enough to get right back on that boat and travel right down that stream,” Tackett said. Throughout the trip, there was only one injury. Cameron Lane, age 11, flipped almost immediately upon beginning the journey, cut his leg on a rock and ended up with eight stitches. Though his journey was cut short, he said it was fun while it lasted, and he can’t wait to get back out there on the river for next year’s trip. "I want to actually get more than 200 feet," he said, sarcasm abound. It’s safe to say this scout will keep on keeping on. No setback can cloud his impression of scouting. "We get to go see our friends for a long time, and we do lots of fun stuff,” he said of boyscout adventures. Lane’s father, Joe said in spite of his son’s injury, he enjoyed seeing all the scouts uniting. "I just thought it was nice to get all those boys together to float down the river," he said. In addition to the togetherness the trip inspired, Joe said he thought this accomplishment, along with the reward they received upon journey’s end, taught the boys a valuable life lesson. "I think it's nice for them to be able to see the reward that they got for their hard work that quickly,” he said. “Sometimes you don't always see a reward that quick." Other parents and adults involved with the trip said there was a sense of pride in seeing these boys accomplish a seemingly difficult task. "When he got out of that river, I was so proud of him,” Suzi Wright, mother of 12year-old Cameron, said. “That was a great accomplishment for him, but everything he does in scouts is an accomplishment." “It’s a lot like sports,” Ramey said. “If you’re a member of a team, it’s the same type of feeling, but it’s not competitive. When you set a goal, it’s the same sense of adventure that you get.” Many involved agreed there was a great sense of teamwork on this trip. The older boys and leaders acted as mentors to the younger ones, taking them under their wing and guiding them through the trip. "There were ones that were older that helped Cameron, and hopefully when he gets older he can help the younger ones," Wright said. “We taught them the different strokes with the paddles, but they caught on really fast,” Goff said. “For me, just seeing how quickly the younger scouts caught on was the most rewarding. It was kind of like I was giving back to scouting.” Goff said he will always be involved with scouting in some way or another. Tackett said it was amazing to see the older boys and the scout leaders keeping the boys enthused, energetic and excited about continuing onward. He said even after the long days of rowing, when the canoes landed, the boys were still running around and playing sports before and after their meals. That’s not to say, though, that they weren’t completely exhausted. “There was gain for the pain, because let me tell you, after each of those days, those boys were worn out,” he said. Tackett said they all prayed for no rain, and as an answer to their prayers, they got the complete opposite. “All three days was nothing but heat and sun,” he said. While some boys were sad to see the trip end, others were relieved and happy to go home. “It was an accomplishment,” said Goff. “It was a relief to be able to come home and sleep in my own bed.” The scouts returned home with not only their merit badges, but also with memories and lifelong friends. "When he left, he was friends with all of them,” Wright said, "You're in a canoe with the person for eight hours going 20 hours a day, so you get to know a lot of people that you wouldn't have otherwise had a chance to talk to," said Mary Hillwig, who joined the scouts on part of the trip as a member of Venturing, a co-ed outdoor adventure group. Since the trip, troop leaders have received calls from other scout troops wanting to join in on next year’s canoe trip. As for the boy scouts, they are sporting their new badge bling and counting down the days until next year’s trip down the river.

Economy of a Kayaker Whitewater impacts SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-EXPRESS Sur veys have shown kayakers/canoists have an average annual income over $60,000. That’s a good thing, because whitewater boating isn’t cheap. Here’s a r undown of what to expect to spend per item for new gear that will last more than one season. The first five items are mandator y. The other items are things you want, too. Kayak — $900 Paddle — $200 Helmet — $100 PFD (life-jacket) — $120 Sprayskirt (keeps the

water out of the boat) — $120 Throw-Rope — $40 Dr y-Top (keeps cold water off of your upper body) — $225 Dr y-Suit (keeps cold water of f your entire body, mandator y for fall/winter boating) — $700 Dr y-Box (keeps your food, camera dr y) — $50 Water clothing (from shoes to polypro underwear to water resistant tops) — $200 There is a reliable used boat market online, in many outfitting stores, and at boating festivals, so you can paddle on a budget. There

are many online forums and sites, where you can find out about what’s good and what isn’t. Or specific questions can be answered at, www.russellfork.info. Boaters who come to the Russell Fork are year-round boaters for the most par t. They often replace boats and paddles ever y other year. Most other gear will be replaced after three years. There’s a lot more wear and tear to whitewater kayaking than many realize, and the dedicated boater can spend thousands of dollars per year to maintain the lifestyle.

Did you Know? Near the Breaks Interstate Park, on the border between Kentucky and Virginia, is a 1600 feet deep, five-mile long canyon of the Big Sandy River known as the Russell Fork. The Big Sandy River offers rafters some of the most challenging whitewater in the east. Free-falling, steep-dropping, nailphoto courtesy Steve Ruth biting rapids pile up one after Local boater Mark Blair navigates the top plank another on the Russell Fork, the move of El Horrendo one low flow summer weektoughest commercially run end. El Horrendo is one of several class 5 drops stretch of whitewater in the east- during release season in the Russell Fork gorge. ern United States. The Russell Fork is so steep and tumultuous, it was considered Class VI unrunnable until the mid-90’s. Russell Fork river rafting trips are only for experienced Class IV and V rafters, since the river drops over 500 feet in a mere 2 1/2 miles. Within that 2 1/2 mile stretch there are six very technical Class IV-V+ rapids. Tower Falls, Twist and Turn, Triple Drop, El Horendo, the Maze, and Climax are one right after the other. Many of the rapids have several five to ten foot drops in a row just within the rapid. El Horendo, a steep waterfall-like drop, is the biggest commercially run “falls” in the United States. This pool-drop (drop, drop) style Russell Fork River rafting trip will thrill even the most adventurous adrenaline junkie.

can be great BY STEVE RUTH CONTRIBUTING WRITER The economic benefits on communities involved in whitewater activities can be great. Those include: Whitewater Kayak/Canoe Avg salary: $66,000 Avg per day spending (across US): $25 For each participant at in-town whitewater features, there are 10 on-lookers. Attracts national and international audience Adventure Tourism impact to East Kentucky (per East KY comprehensive adventure tourism plan) 132,651 annual visitors $54-99,000,000 estimated annual economic impact $3.7-$6.8 in new tax revenues annually 824-1505 estimated new jobs

Activities include, primarily, paddlesports (entire Big Sandy), Trail venues, wildlife viewing, rock climbing & rapelling, lake sports. Great Eastern Trail

Attract national and international visitors Up to $12,000,000 per year direct spending In Damascus, VA, the Appalachian Trail has resulted in 33 new businesses (Damascus is comparable to Elkhorn City in population) Russell Fork at Elkhorn City Visitors Individual canoeing and kayaking visitors spend an average of $173 86% make purchases in Elkhorn City 82% eat at a restaurant in Elkhorn City 39% make purchases or eat in Pikeville 31% visit other attractions on trip.


Page 8 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 13

Boy scout labor day canoe trip — getting there is only half the fun BY KENDALL ATKINS LIVICK STAFF WRITER

News-Express photos by Jerry Boggs

Labor day weekend is designated for laziness. It’s the day we as Americans, have an excuse to just sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But for various boy scout troops throughout Eastern Kentucky and beyond, labor day weekend was all about physical labor. These ambitious kids, ranging from ages 8-18, from Pike County, to Owensboro, Ashville, all the way from Georgia, and other surrounding areas, canoed all the way from Fishtrap Lake to Paintsville, traveling more than 50 miles. The trip lasted for three days, participants stopping Saturday and Sunday night to camp out. “It was a dream of mine,” Doug Ramey, scout master in Elkhorn City, said. “I always want to give them every opportunity that we can.” “It was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work, 17-yearold Will Goff said. “It was very rewarding.” The goal of this trip, aside from fun on Eastern Kentucky’s waterways, was for many of the boys to earn their merit badge. This could be awarded for any type of 50 mile journey, by land, bicycle, or water completed by each scout. In years past, boy scouts have earned this badge independently; but troop leaders thought, why not do it together and turn it into an exciting event? Ramey, who came up with the idea, said he and the other leaders, such as Fred Tuttle, Barry Goff and Glen Felty, have made it their goal to give the boys a sample of what the world is. “It’s our job to broaden their horizens. When we get old like we are, it’s time to give back,” he said, laughing. And an exciting event, it was. As it turned out, much of the community at large wanted to join in the fun.

Besides parents and grandparents of the boy scouts (some of whom actually went on the trip), the tourism directors of Pikeville, Prestonsburg and Paintsville got involved, providing refreshments and entertainment for participants. Tony Tackett, Fred James and Cindy Wheat made sure the boys were well fed, comfortable and having a great time. “Our goal was sponsoring it, being hospitality, and making sure ever y need was met,” Tony Tackett, director of Pike County Tourism said. Tackett said that aside from beginning this annual tradition, this trip was a wonderful way to showcase and market the beautiful and adventuresubmitted photo inspiring waterways that Boyscouts from around the eastern United States launch their canoes during the Eastern Kentucky has to Levisa Fork Adventure Float over Labor Day Weekend. offer — unique water attractions from Fishtrap The boy scouts were so intuitive to the area, in fact, to Paintsville that many people in our area forget about. “What it says about boy scouts is that they’re intu- that Tackett said as he looked around, he didn’t see any itive to what this area has to offer, and we as adults have to connect that to them,” Tackett said. Continued On Page 14


Page 12 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 9


Page 10 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 11


Page 10 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 11


Page 12 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 9


Page 8 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 13

Boy scout labor day canoe trip — getting there is only half the fun BY KENDALL ATKINS LIVICK STAFF WRITER

News-Express photos by Jerry Boggs

Labor day weekend is designated for laziness. It’s the day we as Americans, have an excuse to just sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But for various boy scout troops throughout Eastern Kentucky and beyond, labor day weekend was all about physical labor. These ambitious kids, ranging from ages 8-18, from Pike County, to Owensboro, Ashville, all the way from Georgia, and other surrounding areas, canoed all the way from Fishtrap Lake to Paintsville, traveling more than 50 miles. The trip lasted for three days, participants stopping Saturday and Sunday night to camp out. “It was a dream of mine,” Doug Ramey, scout master in Elkhorn City, said. “I always want to give them every opportunity that we can.” “It was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work, 17-yearold Will Goff said. “It was very rewarding.” The goal of this trip, aside from fun on Eastern Kentucky’s waterways, was for many of the boys to earn their merit badge. This could be awarded for any type of 50 mile journey, by land, bicycle, or water completed by each scout. In years past, boy scouts have earned this badge independently; but troop leaders thought, why not do it together and turn it into an exciting event? Ramey, who came up with the idea, said he and the other leaders, such as Fred Tuttle, Barry Goff and Glen Felty, have made it their goal to give the boys a sample of what the world is. “It’s our job to broaden their horizens. When we get old like we are, it’s time to give back,” he said, laughing. And an exciting event, it was. As it turned out, much of the community at large wanted to join in the fun.

Besides parents and grandparents of the boy scouts (some of whom actually went on the trip), the tourism directors of Pikeville, Prestonsburg and Paintsville got involved, providing refreshments and entertainment for participants. Tony Tackett, Fred James and Cindy Wheat made sure the boys were well fed, comfortable and having a great time. “Our goal was sponsoring it, being hospitality, and making sure ever y need was met,” Tony Tackett, director of Pike County Tourism said. Tackett said that aside from beginning this annual tradition, this trip was a wonderful way to showcase and market the beautiful and adventuresubmitted photo inspiring waterways that Boyscouts from around the eastern United States launch their canoes during the Eastern Kentucky has to Levisa Fork Adventure Float over Labor Day Weekend. offer — unique water attractions from Fishtrap The boy scouts were so intuitive to the area, in fact, to Paintsville that many people in our area forget about. “What it says about boy scouts is that they’re intu- that Tackett said as he looked around, he didn’t see any itive to what this area has to offer, and we as adults have to connect that to them,” Tackett said. Continued On Page 14


Page 14 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 7

Continued From Page 13 boys with iPod earphones in their ears or cell phones in their hands, texting the day away. Instead, they were observing their environment, taking in the sights, noticing squirrels and bridges and making games out of counting trees. Even when their canoes flipped, they never skipped a beat. “Those boys were adventurous enough to get right back on that boat and travel right down that stream,” Tackett said. Throughout the trip, there was only one injury. Cameron Lane, age 11, flipped almost immediately upon beginning the journey, cut his leg on a rock and ended up with eight stitches. Though his journey was cut short, he said it was fun while it lasted, and he can’t wait to get back out there on the river for next year’s trip. "I want to actually get more than 200 feet," he said, sarcasm abound. It’s safe to say this scout will keep on keeping on. No setback can cloud his impression of scouting. "We get to go see our friends for a long time, and we do lots of fun stuff,” he said of boyscout adventures. Lane’s father, Joe said in spite of his son’s injury, he enjoyed seeing all the scouts uniting. "I just thought it was nice to get all those boys together to float down the river," he said. In addition to the togetherness the trip inspired, Joe said he thought this accomplishment, along with the reward they received upon journey’s end, taught the boys a valuable life lesson. "I think it's nice for them to be able to see the reward that they got for their hard work that quickly,” he said. “Sometimes you don't always see a reward that quick." Other parents and adults involved with the trip said there was a sense of pride in seeing these boys accomplish a seemingly difficult task. "When he got out of that river, I was so proud of him,” Suzi Wright, mother of 12year-old Cameron, said. “That was a great accomplishment for him, but everything he does in scouts is an accomplishment." “It’s a lot like sports,” Ramey said. “If you’re a member of a team, it’s the same type of feeling, but it’s not competitive. When you set a goal, it’s the same sense of adventure that you get.” Many involved agreed there was a great sense of teamwork on this trip. The older boys and leaders acted as mentors to the younger ones, taking them under their wing and guiding them through the trip. "There were ones that were older that helped Cameron, and hopefully when he gets older he can help the younger ones," Wright said. “We taught them the different strokes with the paddles, but they caught on really fast,” Goff said. “For me, just seeing how quickly the younger scouts caught on was the most rewarding. It was kind of like I was giving back to scouting.” Goff said he will always be involved with scouting in some way or another. Tackett said it was amazing to see the older boys and the scout leaders keeping the boys enthused, energetic and excited about continuing onward. He said even after the long days of rowing, when the canoes landed, the boys were still running around and playing sports before and after their meals. That’s not to say, though, that they weren’t completely exhausted. “There was gain for the pain, because let me tell you, after each of those days, those boys were worn out,” he said. Tackett said they all prayed for no rain, and as an answer to their prayers, they got the complete opposite. “All three days was nothing but heat and sun,” he said. While some boys were sad to see the trip end, others were relieved and happy to go home. “It was an accomplishment,” said Goff. “It was a relief to be able to come home and sleep in my own bed.” The scouts returned home with not only their merit badges, but also with memories and lifelong friends. "When he left, he was friends with all of them,” Wright said, "You're in a canoe with the person for eight hours going 20 hours a day, so you get to know a lot of people that you wouldn't have otherwise had a chance to talk to," said Mary Hillwig, who joined the scouts on part of the trip as a member of Venturing, a co-ed outdoor adventure group. Since the trip, troop leaders have received calls from other scout troops wanting to join in on next year’s canoe trip. As for the boy scouts, they are sporting their new badge bling and counting down the days until next year’s trip down the river.

Economy of a Kayaker Whitewater impacts SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-EXPRESS Sur veys have shown kayakers/canoists have an average annual income over $60,000. That’s a good thing, because whitewater boating isn’t cheap. Here’s a r undown of what to expect to spend per item for new gear that will last more than one season. The first five items are mandator y. The other items are things you want, too. Kayak — $900 Paddle — $200 Helmet — $100 PFD (life-jacket) — $120 Sprayskirt (keeps the

water out of the boat) — $120 Throw-Rope — $40 Dr y-Top (keeps cold water off of your upper body) — $225 Dr y-Suit (keeps cold water of f your entire body, mandator y for fall/winter boating) — $700 Dr y-Box (keeps your food, camera dr y) — $50 Water clothing (from shoes to polypro underwear to water resistant tops) — $200 There is a reliable used boat market online, in many outfitting stores, and at boating festivals, so you can paddle on a budget. There

are many online forums and sites, where you can find out about what’s good and what isn’t. Or specific questions can be answered at, www.russellfork.info. Boaters who come to the Russell Fork are year-round boaters for the most par t. They often replace boats and paddles ever y other year. Most other gear will be replaced after three years. There’s a lot more wear and tear to whitewater kayaking than many realize, and the dedicated boater can spend thousands of dollars per year to maintain the lifestyle.

Did you Know? Near the Breaks Interstate Park, on the border between Kentucky and Virginia, is a 1600 feet deep, five-mile long canyon of the Big Sandy River known as the Russell Fork. The Big Sandy River offers rafters some of the most challenging whitewater in the east. Free-falling, steep-dropping, nailphoto courtesy Steve Ruth biting rapids pile up one after Local boater Mark Blair navigates the top plank another on the Russell Fork, the move of El Horrendo one low flow summer weektoughest commercially run end. El Horrendo is one of several class 5 drops stretch of whitewater in the east- during release season in the Russell Fork gorge. ern United States. The Russell Fork is so steep and tumultuous, it was considered Class VI unrunnable until the mid-90’s. Russell Fork river rafting trips are only for experienced Class IV and V rafters, since the river drops over 500 feet in a mere 2 1/2 miles. Within that 2 1/2 mile stretch there are six very technical Class IV-V+ rapids. Tower Falls, Twist and Turn, Triple Drop, El Horendo, the Maze, and Climax are one right after the other. Many of the rapids have several five to ten foot drops in a row just within the rapid. El Horendo, a steep waterfall-like drop, is the biggest commercially run “falls” in the United States. This pool-drop (drop, drop) style Russell Fork River rafting trip will thrill even the most adventurous adrenaline junkie.

can be great BY STEVE RUTH CONTRIBUTING WRITER The economic benefits on communities involved in whitewater activities can be great. Those include: Whitewater Kayak/Canoe Avg salary: $66,000 Avg per day spending (across US): $25 For each participant at in-town whitewater features, there are 10 on-lookers. Attracts national and international audience Adventure Tourism impact to East Kentucky (per East KY comprehensive adventure tourism plan) 132,651 annual visitors $54-99,000,000 estimated annual economic impact $3.7-$6.8 in new tax revenues annually 824-1505 estimated new jobs

Activities include, primarily, paddlesports (entire Big Sandy), Trail venues, wildlife viewing, rock climbing & rapelling, lake sports. Great Eastern Trail

Attract national and international visitors Up to $12,000,000 per year direct spending In Damascus, VA, the Appalachian Trail has resulted in 33 new businesses (Damascus is comparable to Elkhorn City in population) Russell Fork at Elkhorn City Visitors Individual canoeing and kayaking visitors spend an average of $173 86% make purchases in Elkhorn City 82% eat at a restaurant in Elkhorn City 39% make purchases or eat in Pikeville 31% visit other attractions on trip.


Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 15

Page 6 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

2nd Annual Russell Fork Free for All SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-EXPRESS

The Lord of the Fork BY STEVE RUTH CONTRIBUTING WRITER The annual Russell Fork Gorge extreme race, entering its 16th official year, was renamed the Lord of the Fork race in October 2004 in honor of Jon Lord who died in the gorge in January of that year. Jon was a well known extreme kayaker when he moved to Pikeville in 1999 as part of Kellogg management at the Cookie Factory. Working for Kellogg, you moved around to get up through management and Jon had more than one choice for his next assignment. He chose Pikeville for its proximity to the Russell Fork and its nearly year-round flow. Jon immediately fell into the local boating group who introduced him to the great lower levels on the river. He was a veteran of many release seasons, but hadn’t seen the river and canyon at the lower levels it runs most of the year. It didn’t take long to make a believer out of him. Whether running low or high, he always wanted to hit the river. He was a bigger-than-life character, usually loud, always the first one down the rapid. Jon pushed us to work our boating skills, to paddle harder streams, to challenge more difficult conditions. I got to show him a couple of the better low water lines in the gorge and he returned the favor by showing me down

Can you swim? Do you have a boat that can handle class II/III whitewater? Do you like to have fun for no apparent reason? The second annual Russell Fork Freefor-All is the event for you! On Saturday, October 2, we’ll gather at Ratliff Hole for a massstart race 2.5 miles downstream to the Elkhorn Beach. Wor thless prizes and instant notoriety will be up for grabs as we determine the fastest, the slowest, the ugliest, most creative and the most likely to sink on this fun run into town. There’ll be many classes, depending on how many types of craft actually enter (kayak, raft, duckie, etc). Race start is 3pm, at the Ratliff Hole River Access. All participants will be required to wear proper whitewater safety gear (helmet and lifejacket) and be in a craft that will probably make it. Limited shuttle will be provided, but selfshuttle is appreciated. There’s a $1 entr y fee. If you don’t want to race, come on down to Elkhorn Beach and watch the fun! The award show will be at the Russell Fork Rendezvous, Saturday evening, October 2. For more information or to donate wor thless prizes, visit www.russellfork.info.

several creeks and rapids I’d never run. He was brutally honest and would say, you’ve got this or you oughta walk this if he thought you weren’t ready. He was generally right. Jon loved to give his friends a hard time, always kidding and taunting when you wrecked or swam. Before hitting the river he’d ask somebody if they had a throw rope, usually knowing the answer beforehand. When that person inevitably said “No,” he’d toss them his and say, “Here, you might need to rescue me.” The joke being a throw rope isn’t for yourself, it’s to save your paddling buddy. That person would usually have a rope the next time. Jon also liked to say, “It’s okay to be cold.” Before Jon came around, few of the locals paddled from December into February. But Jon loved winter boating, in snow and ice, when the conditions were at their most raw. You’d see him in the same pair of paddling shorts no matter how cold it was. It’s okay to be cold. So it was a bit fitting that Jon would meet his demise on a cold Sunday in January on the Russell Fork. The accident was on a dangerous drop, Tower, but one he had slicked a couple hundred times. The river was at a tricky level and the line at Tower was borderline. He couldn’t have been with two better paddling partners, both trained and skilled in emergency situations. Both top-level

boaters. One had chosen the easier line, one had run the hard line first before Jon. N e i t h e r boater saw exactly what happened, didn’t know anything was wrong before noticing Jon’s paddle floating out of the rapid. They had to climb onto a rock in the center of the river to see where he was, trapped at the bottom of the drop. They hit him with throw ropes, but it was too late. His boat, and he, were pinned to the bottom of the drop, the river rushing over his back and head. With no way to extract him, they had to paddle out to contact emergency services. Jon’s death deeply affected paddlers all across the eastern United States. More than 20 paddlers dropped everything and came to Elkhorn the night he died to help with extracting his body the next morning. Unfortunately, his body was lost when the recovery team arrived and the search, with many boaters staying on, carried on for a week, mostly in sub-freezing weather. After a week and the river rising, the search was called off.

Jon’s body was found four weeks to the day following his drowning. Appropriately, a small group of local boaters happened upon him near the state line after a couple of days of warmer weather toward the end of February. With help from the railroad and emergency personnel, we brought him out to his family. Jon left behind a wife and two small children. There’d be no more wondering for them, or for his friends. The paddling community misses Jon Lord. Bottom line, he was a lot of fun to be around. He got a lot out of his short time in this world and many of us were blessed to be a part of it.

October Schedule of Events in Elkhorn City SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-EXPRESS The 2010 Russell Fork whitewater season brings a great assortment of activities for everyone to enjoy. We kick off the season this year with the 2nd annual Russell Fork Free for All, an “anything that floats” fun race down the lower section from the Ratliff Hole access about 2.5 miles downstream to Elkhorn Beach. Worthless prizes will be awarded in several categories, including first, last, most likely to sink, best costume, most impressive watercraft, and anything else we can think of. Participants are required to wear a lifejacket/pfd and helmet. There will be a $1 entry fee and the event will begin at 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 2. Join us by floating or watch at the beach! The 15th annual Russell Fork Rendezvous will also return to the first release weekend with camping, live music on Saturday, food, fireworks, videos, and

friendly people. The Rendezvous will be held on Carson Island in Elkhorn City, Oct. 1 through Oct. 3. There will be a $10 admission fee. It’s not all whitewater in Elkhorn City in October, though. The Artists Collaborative Theatre will be presenting “Honky Tonk Angels,” great music and talent through October 10. Visit, www.act4.org for schedule and ticket information. The fourth annual Baddlun on the Russell Fork is set to begin at noon, Saturday, Oct. 9. This extreme triathlon features biking from Ratliff Hole to Bartlick, paddling from Bartlick to Carson Island and running from Carson Island to Ratliff Hole, with a swim across the river to end. The race covers about 28 miles and includes biking over two mountains on a winding road, paddling four miles of class V river, then running over another mountain on a dirt/rock trail. Last year a dozen competed, this year more are expected.

The paddler appreciation cookout sponsored by the Elkhorn City Heritage Council will begin at 5 p.m., Oct. 9, at Carson Island. This year will be hamburgers, hotdogs and other goodies on the big grill. Show a standard piece of gear you just wore on the river and get free food! The 2009 Lord of the Fork extreme downriver race was the overall fastest on record. More than 40 racers broke the 11-minute barrier, including the first ever sub-10 minute run by a non-wavehopper. The world’s best downriver paddlers will dash down the class 5-5.1 Russell Fork gorge from Let’s Make a Deal through Climax. This year it will begin at 2 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 23. For histor y of the race, more information on all events and pictures, visit, www.russellfork.info. Whitewater releases from Flanagan Reser voir are scheduled for October 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, and 23-24. Release times are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

photos courtesy www.russellfork.info


Page 16 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Get the adrenaline pumping at Breaks Interstate Parks – the “Grand Canyon of the South.” Spanning the Virginia/Kentucky border, “The Breaks” is one of two interstate parks in the nation. Class IV-VI rapids on the Russell Fork River run through the park, making for some of the best whitewater rafting on the East Coast. Breaks Interstate Park is one of only two Interstate Parks in the nation. The park encompasses 4,500 acres of greenwood lands and mountain scenery, including the "Grand Canyon of the South". Histor y: More than 180 million years ago, the Breaks Park and surrounding area were covered by a vast inland sea. As time passed and the earth's climate and land areas changed, the sea receded, and what is now the Russell Fork River began to carve the beautiful, immense gorge that we now call "the Breaks." In more recent times, the Cherokee and Shawnee Indian tribes used this region as their sacred hunting ground. John Swift is said to have buried a treasure of silver somewhere in the gorge. But it was Daniel Boone who is credited with discovering the Breaks in 1767 as he attempted to find improved trails into Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley. The Breaks was a very rare passageway, or break, across the 125-mile long Pine Mountain. However, an abundance of copperheads and rattlesnakes, treacherous terrain, and thick forestation forced him to turn back, making "the Breaks" a noteworthy end to his journey. In 1954, through the joint efforts of Virginia and Kentucky, the United States Congress created the Breaks Interstate Park, a 4,600 acre tribute to the unmatched rugged beauty of this natural wonder. It boasts the deepest chasm east of the Mississippi River and is also unique in another way the Breaks Park is one of only two interstate parks in the country. With plenty of recreation, beautiful scenery, affordable lodging, and friendly faces, your trip to Breaks Interstate Park will be one to remember.

Directions: The park is located in northern Dickenson County, where Dickenson/Buchanan County, Va., and Pike County, Ky., converge. From Haysi in northern Dickenson County, take VA 80 8 miles north to the park entrance, on the left. The park is located 7 miles east of Elkhorn City, Ky., on KY-VA 80. Activities: Swimming, hiking, boating, whitewater rafting (seasonal), whitewater canoeing and kayaking (with your own craft), and horseback riding. Pond fishing for bass and bluegill, and river fishing for bass, trout, and walleye. Facilities: Visitor center, campground (electric, water, and sewer available; alcohol not allowed), restaurant, gift shop, housekeeping cottages, motor lodge, pool and snack bar, hiking trails, bike trail, boat dock and rental boats, stable and rental horses, fishing lake (license may be purchased at visitor center), picnic shelters. Primitive camping allowed in backcountry by permit. Dates of Operation: Gates: open year-round. Visitor center: open April 1 - Oct 31. Campground: open April 1 - Oct. 31. Restaurant and gift shop: open April 1 Dec. 21. Cottages: open year-round. Motor lodge: open year-round Pool and snack bar: open Memorial Day weekend - Labor Day. Boat dock: open seasonally. Riding stable: open seasonally. Fees: A fee is charged for admission, and for campsites, cottages, motor lodge, picnic shelters, pool, pedal boats, and horse rides. Closest towns: Elkhorn City, Ky., is on KY 80 in Pike County, 5 miles west of the park entrance. Haysi, Va., is on VA 80 in Dickenson County, 8 miles south of the entrance. F o r m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n : Breaks Interstate Park, PO Box 100, Breaks, VA 24607-0100. Phone (276) 865-4413 or 4414 for motor lodge reservations. www.breakspark.com

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010• Page 5

Elkhorn City is potential site for 2011 U.S. Wildwater National Team Trials Race SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-EXPRESS The USA Canoe and Kayak Association (USACK) is considering a bid to bring the Wildwater National Team Trials Race to the Russell Fork river in Elkhorn City, Kentucky in 2011. The race will be used to select the members of the national team for competition in the 2012 World Championship Races in Europe. Jack Ditty, former organizer of the Russell Fork Gorge Race and current member of the US National Wildwater Team, submitted the bid to the USACK. “We hope to convince the USACK wildwater committee that Elkhorn City, Ky. is one of the best sites in the countr y for high-level race competition,” Ditty said. Most wildwater races consist of two separate competitions; a “sprint” race

and a “classic” race. The sprint course is usually 500 meters long, and takes about 90 seconds from beginning to end. The classic course is usually two to four miles long, and takes about 20 minutes. Participants use sleek, lightweight kayaks or canoes and years of paddling experience to negotiate the complex rapids along the course. The wildwater style of racing is ver y popular in Europe, and the U.S. hopes to take a strong team there for competition in 2012. The race bid for Elkhorn City depends on securing a scheduled water release from Flanagan Dam, operated by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. “The team trials needs to happen before the end of the summer, for the team to get organized and start training for the international races, so we’re hoping to get dam releases scheduled for Aug. 19-21, 2011,” Ditty

said. “This might require a bit of local support to help convince the dam operators to arrange the release. The return for the community would be a large number of people spending tourist dollars in the local region during a weekend in August, along with attracting new whitewater paddlers to the region that might return again during the October dam release season.” The proposed team trials sprint race would be held at Ratliff Hole, one of the river access points within Breaks Interstate Park, and the finish line for the classic race would be in downtown Elkhorn City. Competitors would be expected to travel from all regions of the countr y for the race. “Wildwater racing is popular in the Mid-Atlantic states, the Southeast, the Rocky Mountains, and the PacificNorthwest, so we would expect groups from at least all of these regions to show up for the race,” Ditty said.

In addition to those that are vying for a spot on the national team, there will also be an open race categor y, so that recreational kayakers can compete as well. Ditty, of Morgantown, W.Va., and Steve Ruth, a local paddler from Elkhorn City, have been paddling the whitewater of the Russell Fork for at least the past 14 years, and realized the potential of the Breaks Interstate Park and Elkhorn City as a great venue for national level competition. “I’ve competed in whitewater races all over the United States and in Europe, and none of those sites compare to the quality of the whitewater, the spectacular scener y, the great facilities available within the Breaks Park, and the welcoming attitude of the people of Elkhorn City,” Ditty said. “I’d love to see the fastest whitewater paddlers in the countr y show up to compete on this river.”


Page 4 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 17

It’s not all whitewater BY STEVE RUTH CONTRIBUTING WRITER Whitewater season is a good time to talk about all the other outdoor adventures available around Elkhorn City. It's not hard to see why the little town on the edge of Pike County is consistently recognized as a destination for all types of adventure and eco-tourism. If you like the outdoors, there's something here for you. Nestled at the mouth of the Breaks Canyon, the town is at the intersection of two established cross country trails: the legendary 76 Trans-America bicycle trail now in its 33rd year, and the brand new Great Eastern Trail (GET), a hiking/multi-use trail that parallels the Appalachian Trail, running from southern Alabama to the Finger Lakes State Park in upstate New York. Elkhorn City is the northern trailhead for the Pine Mountain Trail, which will be one of the primary routes of the GET, which will continue northeastward through the county crossing into West Virginia at Matewan. Anglers are getting the word the Russell Fork is an accessible and reliable trout stream regularly stocked upstream and downstream of town. Natural smallmouth bass and walleye are also abundant. Canoe and flat-water kayakers are regularly float-fishing downstream of Elkhorn City toward Millard and the Levisa Confluence. The county is developing river access points in Elkhorn and downstream to Pikeville and further downstream toward Prestonsburg and establishing the Russell Fork River Trail. Elkhorn City was one of the first small towns in the state to make ATVs legal to operate on roads within city limits. It is quickly becoming a hub for clubs who can follow several routes outside and

around town. The return of all sorts of wildlife to the area in recent years has made the area a destination for bird-watchers, wildlife photographers and nature hikers. Bear, deer and elk, river otter and beaver, blue heron and osprey are all visible to lucky watchers in the right places. There are active horseback riding clubs and stables in the area that offer guided rides in and around the Breaks and up the Pine Mountain Trail. Knott County’s recent success is a real model that could take off here, in a more scenic area. For several years, boaters have been hauling their mountain bikes to town to tackle the world-class biking trails in the Breaks Park and some of the rougher fare around town. Word of mouth alone has made local mountain bike trails the stuff of legend on the internet. A dedicated local group of bikers has built, maintained and continued to expand those trails which have been recognized by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Hundreds of cross country bicyclers pass through Elkhorn City each season, travelling one way or the other from Jamestown, Virginia to Astoria, Oregon on the 76 Trans-America route. Elkhorn City is a recommended stop on maps for camping, shelter, food and eccentric behavior. Walkers and hikers have an endless supply of possibilities, from the Blueline Trail around Elkhorn City to a labyrinth of trails in the Breaks Park to the Pine Mountain Trail. Anyone interested in trailbuilding in the area should contact either the Elkhorn City Area Heritage Council or the Pine Mountain Trail Conference. And then, of course, there's the world famous whitewater.

photo courtesy Steve Ruth

Happy visitors leave dollars for the local economy. The 2008 paddler's appreciation cookout fed 200 boaters who made their happiness known through donations and return trips.

photo courtesy Steve Ruth

Pike County's own old-time super-group, Larry Webster and the Mule Band, wow the crowd at the 2008 Rendezvous. The recent East Kentucky Comprehensive Adventure Tourism Plan predicted the type of activities Elkhorn City has to offer can have an economic impact of $90 million per year to the region. These could generate 1,500 new full-time jobs in the region.

As the Adventure Tourism Capital in eastern Kentucky, Elkhorn City could see a good share of those benefits. It's up to the people of Elkhorn City and Pike County to make it happen. www.elkhorncity.org for more information.


Page 18 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

photos courtesy www.russellfork.info

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 3


Page 2 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures

Whitewater Adventures • September 30, 2010 • Page 19


Page 20 • September 30, 2010 • Whitewater Adventures


Whitewater 2010