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Trip Suggestion:

Madison, Carrollton and KY River

By Jerry Hay, Publisher of the Ohio River Guidebook.

Looking for some ideas upriver from Louisville?

One is to go up to Carrollton, KY, then up the Kentucky River to below Lock #1 and anchor or beach for the night. There are usually fishermen but it is a quiet and pretty spot. I enjoy the sound of the water flowing over the dam.

The second is to call Kathy at the newly remodeled Riverboat Inn at Madison. She will pick you up at Rivercrest Marina and take you back the next morning. This is if you are willing to spend the $$ to leave the boat and stay at the Inn. Neither is cheap.

Link to Jerry's Guidbook


Above, your webmaster takes Jerry up on his suggestion in 2009 for a quick day-trip to the KY River in the runabout.

Your webmaster, Capt. Eric, adds:

Check the charts for your exact distances. You’re looking at about 50 miles from the Louisville area up to Carrollton, plus another 4 up to Lock #1. I would suggest calling the Rivercrest Marina in Madison to see if their fuel will be available. Don’t forget to stop on the river for lunch at the Madison Lighthouse Restaurant.

See the text below for more history and a 2014 update on the locks...


Following are some pictures from Eric's 2010 overnight at Lock 1 on the KY River. It is unbelievable how quiet the night is there with no wakes and the constant rush of the water over the spillway.

Above, the entrance to the KY River at Carrolton.

I'm sure there's a story here somewhere!

The morning steam fog off the river.

Above, the view headed back down the Ohio from Carrolton.

Update: Lock Status as of 2/04/2013:

Kentucky River Lock Update,
Reprinted from the Port KY News and Notes:

Ten years ago, were you fortunate enough to have traveled the Kentucky River? We've found that we really enjoy the four mile detour off the Ohio River in Carrolton to an overnight at Lock 1. But, for now that's as far as you can navigate from here. The first five locks were constructed between 1836-1842, back when Frankfort had a population of less than 2,000, and Lock 14 was the last put into operation in 1917. The city of Frankfort sits just upriver of Lock 4 at Mile Marker 65.

Fast forwarding to the 20th century, the KY River Authority was formed in 1986 to ensure a quality water supply for residents along and near the river. The US Army Corps of Engineers handed over authority for the river's locks, and their operation was de-emphasized due to the lack of commercial traffic.

Locks 6-14 were closed in the early 2000s for a lack of funding. After 2007, the last of the locks on the KY River were closed, restricting recreational and commercial traffic. Those hardest hit were the boaters in the Frankfurt area, who formerly had access to Madison, Louisville and Cincinnati via the 65-mile trip through Locks 1-4 and into the Ohio.

There are 254 miles of navigable waterways between Carrolton and Beattyville, where the river splits into the North, South and Middle Forks. The Kentucky River Authority has a renewed interest in keeping the locks open to promote recreational boating. According to documents from recent meetings, there is an appreciation for the economic tie to recreational boating, and also the usefulness associated with having the locks open to move heavy equipment between the locks during renovations and repairs.

The KY River Authority published the newest set of navigation charts as recently as 2011. Those charts are available via a link on the resources page on the Port KY website as well as through the link on the ky.gov site here: link

What about the future? Public records show millions in funds committed to the restoration of the 145'x38' chambers in Locks 1-4, since 2008 and through various funding sources. According to a phone call to their office, Locks 3 and 4 will be open to boaters from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2013 on weekends only, between the hours of either 9-6 or 10-7, to be determined. Unfortunately, due to the renovation schedule, it will be 2014 until Locks 1 and 2 will be open.

We'll have more information on the locks as we head into the summer. In the meantime, mark your calendars for your 2014 weekend trip to Frankfort!



Eric Grubb
Founder, Port KY
Licensed Master

Eric grew up around boats, trading summers on board his parents' Sea Rays for many man-hours of swabbing the decks. He grew up by the little town of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, overlooking the the Dashields Locks and Dam. He has traveled the Great Lakes, Lake Huron's North Channel, Gulf of Mexico and several rivers to include the Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha, Mohawk (Erie Canal), Tennessee, Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Mobile Rivers.

As a commercial pilot, Eric flies jets and is a flight instructor. He has owned recreational boats ranging from PWCs to most recently, a flybridge convertible that he keeps in a Louisville marina (MM 590). You can also find him with his family on the "Escape Pod," an 18' fishing boat. His most memorable journey was aboard the J. S. Lewis, a 155' towboat in service since 1931.

Eric is a USCG Licensed Master with a Commerical Tow Assistance rating, and is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Riverman and the Louisville Sail and Power Squadron. After moving to Louisville, he conceived the idea for Louisville's Port KY website while searching for information to help him become a safer and more knowledgable local boater. He has worked hard over the years to educate other boaters by promoting safety classes through Port KY and by hosting captain's classes and related events.




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