Mudfoot’s Meanderings Rolling on the Kentucky River Paddle then Head to Proud Mary’s Honky Tonk BBQ

By Carrie “Mudfoot”



     Believe it or not, autumn is just around the corner. I’ve been noticing small signs for weeks – the tiny bit of yellow I see creeping into the tree line, the number of nuts crunching under my hiking boots and of course, the calendar flipping over to September… 

    Autumn is hands down my favorite season of the year. During years when the leaves are perfectly brilliant and crisp, I float through the season in a dream distracted at every turn by the kaleidoscope of foliage that surrounds me.

    All of my favorite outside activities are more fun in the fall due to the chance of lower temperatures and a different, more inspiring view. Now is the time to plan your fall adventures.

    On my list are a host of paddles (you are surprised right?) in a variety of classic Kentucky locations. For one, I’ve been saving the last stretch of the Kentucky River palisades for the fall just to get more striking photos for my book. On clear autumn days the contrast between the 400-foot limestone cliffs and the variety of hardwoods dressed in their fall colors is an unforgettable sight.

    The Kentucky Palisades is a 100-mile stretch of Kentucky River from just past Clay’s Ferry to Frankfort. Here the river is squeezed between towering cliffs as it snakes its way through the heart of the bluegrass. The ecosystem in the area is unlike any other in the state, it includes species that thrive on springs that seep through intricate limestone cave systems.

    Unfortunately access to the river in this area can be a little tricky and require either long shuttle paddles or loops on the river, which is more like a series of lakes due to the largely broken lock and dam system that divides the river into terraced pools between Beattyville and the Ohio River.

    For an easy Palisades paddle, I would recommend putting in at Clay’s Ferry Ramp, located next to Proud Mary Honky Tonk BBQ, 9079 Old Richmond Road, Lexington, Kentucky, between the U.S. 27 and I-75 bridges.  Paddle downstream through the palisades paddling beneath first Floracliff State Nature Preserve and then Raven Run Nature Preserve. From the put-in boaters head west/northwest or river right.

    Almost immediately the first cliff comes into view, named Bull Hell Cliff rising above the southern bank (river left). Two-and-a-half miles later Floracliff State Nature Preserve is high above the river along the northern bank (river right). The river makes a horse shoe turn here and heads south, as it passes beneath Raven Run, also on the northern bank. Raven Run itself enters the river at mile 3.5.

    This is a good turn around spot to head back upstream back to the put-in. When you reach the put-in, if you’re still feeling frisky, travel past it upriver to Boone Creek, which is on the northern back. (Now river left). 

    Boone Creek is a narrow rocky tributary with its own set of palisades. In wet weather there is a waterfall about ½ mile up the creek. When you’re done exploring this spot, turn around again and head back to the put-in.

    A perfect end to the day is enjoying a cold brew, a BBQ dinner and a sunset music performance from the patio at Proud Mary’s before heading home.   Check out for a menu and a listing for upcoming events.

    Don’t have your own boat? Rent one from the folks at SUP Kentucky Adventures ( or Three Trees Canoe and Kayak (

    Carrie “Mudfoot” Stambaugh is the managing editor of The Greater Ashland Beacon. She is the author of “Hiking Kentucky: A guide to 80 of Kentucky’s Greatest Hiking Adventures,” and the forthcoming “Paddling Kentucky.” “Hiking Kentucky” is available at the Jesse Stuart Foundation Bookstore on U.S. 60 in Ashland.