Red River Gorge Richard George at Sea.

Richard George

© Copyright 1998 by Richard George

At the time the thing to do, was use the facility. The media had been noteworthy in presenting both sides of the issue. To dam or not to dam. Some felt that closing the flow of the Red River would create a vast new recreational lake, and provide needed flood control for the people that lived along side.

Those that opposed the dam liked to point out that the lake would be an odd looking thing, approxamately one hundred feet wide and ten miles long. Even the advocates of the lake were leery of mentioning the proposed depth estimates. They ran from ninty feet close to the dam in the spring to a slow trickle at the ten mile mark in the fall season.

 So the word was out, any body that has any feeling for the streams that represent Kentucky at its best and most natural had best go to the Red River Gorge and use it. Otherwise it could dissapear forever. Accordingly in the years that the dispute lasted I and my family took any "open weekend" and traveled to the "Gorge".

We owned one canoe, and depending on the number of participants that made the trip with us we would stop at the Outfitters and rent enough extra canoes to provide every one with the opportunity to "Paddle his/her own canoe".

 The exercise was very simple, all the stream was within a national park so there were no problems with trespassing. The trip was nine miles long and the outfitter would take you back to your automobile if you rented a canoe from him. If you did not rent a canoe return back upstream still posed no problem. Out on the road with a paddle, waving it at the first automobile would most often get you transportation back to the put in place and your automobile.

 The river itself was catagorized as mostly amiable, depending on the season. From July through mid September were the really great times, the water level then was such that the rapids were interesting, as opposed to dangerous. and there was sufficient water to allow floating your canoe all the way without portage. Earlier with the spring run off filling the river it could be absolutly death defying to attempt passage through the Gorge. Later in the fall season there was not enough water to make travel possible except as a portage practice. Who needs that?

 With the passage of time the necessary repetitous events blend into oneness while the noteworthy singular happenings stand forth as if all occurred on the same trip. Consequently as you read this it will appear as though the nine miles from start to finish must have been a prerequisit for a stay in a mental hospital.


Two of my sons are with me to scout out the lay of the land and find out if this activity is suitable for the rest of the family. We have discussed this with the park ranger and he reassured me that this was an absolutely foolproof activity. We could get wet and possibly become humiliated, but "No danger".

 The canoe is off the top of the truck and the lunch has been carried down to the river side. We have assessed the steepness of the river bank, and begin to proceed down. About half way down as I was changing hands on the canoe. (The program was one hand for yourself and one hand for the canoe.) My two sons chose this time to launch into the everlasting sibling rivalry thing in such a manner that neither had any hands for the canoe. Did I mention how steep this river bank was? It was so steep that rocks could not maintain a position on it, all the rocks were in the water. Just like my canoe.

 With a swoosh and bang the canoe was gone, I had turned loose for just a moment and now it's gone. Crashing and hoorawing we pursued the path of our freedom seeking canoe. We destroyed the primeval silence that hangs over the red river on most every day, except when we lose a canoe. We burst upon the waters edge to see the current nibbling at our canoe, my oldest leapt into the water, but could not reach either bottom or the canoe. As I pulled the boy from the water the current got a good grip on the bow of the canoe and pulled it full into the flow of the stream.

 Our cries had alerted the entire forest that strangers were afoot, and sure enough a canoe carrying two formidble, competent canoists appeared. They inquired as to our well being. I babbled clearly and coherently that my canoe was being carried downstream by demons or devils. Maintaining the distance required of canoeists when dealing with obviously mentally distressed persons they speedily passed downstream, caught our canoe and returned it to our control, then still without coming too close took their leave.

 Well, the Ranger had said "wet and humiliated", and we had acheived that part,so now on to the fun part.


The middle daughter was often called "Princess" by the family, not for any pretense we might have maintained of springing from royal stock. Actually the title developed because she preferred that some one of us wait on her and provide satisfaction for her whims.

The water was not as high as some had seen it but there was more than enough to satisfy our need for a little whitewater thrill. Our most recent foray thru the rocks had ended badly with the bow of the canoe stuck in between two huge boulders. The bow paddler had screamed and thrown her paddle at the offending boulders, this was duly noted as "not being much help". The paddle being made of wood did the wooden thing and floated away with the current. To follow the path taken by our errant paddle it was first necessary to unstick the canoe from between the boulders, this required someone with a firm footing on the river bottom pulling the canoe away from the rocks.

I carefully weighed the possibilities, parents always do that, considered the Princess comfortably reclining in the bottom of the canoe surrounded with every life jacket she could find. Even as my glance passed over the form of this child she began. "Oh no!" she said, "Oh no! not me, I am not going to get myself wet and nasty, you can't expect me to put my feet in that yucky stuff on the bottom?". "Besides", she continued "It's all her fault anyway," now pointing her finger accusingly at the older girl in the bow of the canoe. "See how she likes getting all wet and yucky?"

The older girl, with a wicked glance in the direction of her younger sister cupped her hand in the water and with a joyful scream began to throw handfulls of water on the Princess. Daddy as he had known he would from the very beginning assumed the role of saviour by stepping out of the canoe into waist deep water as he threatned both the girls with absolutely turning the canoe upside down if they did not cease that racket.

To be continued...

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