May 10, 2016


Steve Siler is a song writer, and founder and director of Music for the Soul, a non-profit music ministry. He is writing this column on behalf of Downtown Frankfort, Inc., a Kentucky Main Street program.

A River Runs Through It

Local business helps residents explore area rivers.

When I was seventeen years old the movie Deliverance came to the big screen. I was living in California at the time. Up until then I’d never given two seconds thought to the idea of canoeing down a river. But after watching the movie my high school buddy, Paul Leigh, and I decided it looked pretty exciting.

We made plans to canoe down the Russian River in Northern California, putting in at Healdsburg and paddling our way to the Pacific Ocean. We had no idea what we were doing. Fortunately for us the water was low that year. When I told this story to Chris Howard, the Outreach Coordinator at Canoe Kentucky in downtown Frankfort, I laughed and said, “I’m lucky to be alive.” He replied emphatically, “Yes, you are!”

Too bad I didn’t have a team like the folks at Canoe Kentucky to turn to when I had my bright idea. They would have helped me make a fun and safe choice.

I had the opportunity to visit with Howard recently at Canoe Kentucky’s beautiful new downtown location at the corner of Main and St. Clair. What I found there was a one-stop shop for “anything and everything paddle sports.” Turns out Elkhorn Creek and the Kentucky River offer lots of opportunities for safe, fun outdoor adventures right here in the Frankfort area.

We’re not talking just about canoes either. Of course I’d heard of Kayaks and river rafts. But I’d never heard of Stand-up Paddle Boarding. Canoe Kentucky offers all of these modes of non-motorized water experiences. I was curious about how such a business got its start.

Howard told me that thirty-five years ago Ed Council purchased six canoes for an end-of-the- year canoe trip for the local Boy Scout troop he was a leader of and in which his son was a member. After the trip the canoes sat unused in Ed’s yard for several months until one day the following spring when a man came by and asked if he could rent a few canoes for the day. That one request was the beginning of the business you see today!

Ed’s daughter Allison Depenbrock and her husband Nathan are co-owners of the business now, managing a staff of twenty-seven people and a fleet of one hundred canoes and seventy-five kayaks.

“We want people out in nature,” Chris says.  As if to prove his point Canoe Kentucky has adventure travel programs for families, school groups, and “kids” of all ages including opportunities for paddling, caving, camping, whitewater canoeing, and fishing. They even have couples weekends!  

In addition they are helping to instill a love of the outdoors and water sports in young people through a variety of outdoor summer camps. Additionally, in a partnership with KSU they operate the Kentucky River Thoroughbred, an aquatic and environmental science vessel, which functions both as a floating classroom and a floating laboratory. 

And here I thought the Kentucky River was just something to drive over going between north and south Frankfort.

When it comes to water sports in Kentucky it’s not just the Kentucky River we’re talking about. “There are more waterways in Kentucky than in any other state with the exception of Alaska,” Howard told me.

Naturally with the iconic pioneer Daniel Boone’s final resting place overlooking the Kentucky River I wondered aloud to Howard if Boone had likely done a good bit of traveling by canoe. “I’m sure he did,” he replied.

Sure enough, a little research turned up the Daniel Boone Heritage Canoe Trail. But you’d have to go to North Carolina if you wanted to paddle that trail.

Fortunately, however, a terrific canoe experience awaits right here in our own backyard! Come and get your paddle on!

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