By Capt. Eric
you haven't ventured past the Markland Locks and Dam,
I would highly recommend this trip. From Louisville,
you could do the trip in two days, but I'd recommend
taking the time to relax and spend some time up that
With a great river report and weather forecast in
hand, we left Prospect in the morning and headed north.
For the big picture, Prospect is at Mile 590, Markland
Lock is Mile 531 and Craig's Creek is Mile 530. You're
looking at a 60 mile trip plus 30 minutes (plus delays)
for the lock. I'll let you do the math for your cruising
speed and fuel consumption, but make sure to take a
2 mph current into account for the trip upriver. North
of the River's Edge Marina, the Rivercrest Marina in
Madison is your last chance for fuel before the Markland
For the trip, I would recommend that you have at a
minimum a set of USACE River Charts and a set of binoculars.
They will assist you in finding the nuns and cans along
the way. Also, the binoculars will help you identify
towboats from a distance and help you to determine
a safe course of action for meeting situations. A VHF
radio is helpful for the locks.
Before launching on your adventure,
it's also helpful to call ahead to find out about hours
of operation and fuel availability, especially if you're
going during the week. We found Smuggler's Cove to
have plenty of availability for docking during the
week and made a reservation. Pier 99 and Turtle Creek
were also highly recommended in the area, but we chose
Smuggler's Cove for our trip because of the restaurant
located across the street. If you're feeling lucky,
Belterra can send a courtesy shuttle to shuttle you
to the casino and back.
As you head north of Carrolton, the two narrowest
parts are Craig's Bar and the Vevay Bar. Wouldn't you
know we met a tow at Craig's Bar, about the narrowest
part of the trip. We coordinated the passing via radio,
but it certainly was a narrow stretch between the channel
markers with a downbound tow.
You can find information on locking in another article,
so I'll skip the details here. They are used to accommodating
pleasure craft, and were helpful in having the small
chamber ready for us. The kids love the whole locking
Once you exit the Markland Locks,
you will see Belterra Casino to the left on the Indiana
shore and Smuggler's Cove and the entrance to Craig's
Creek on the right.
Above, Belterra Casino on the left.
Above, the entrance to Craig's
Creek. You will see a bridge with depth markings,
and to the left a BP sign and an ad for Smuggler's
Cove ("Keep left
past bridge"). If you are going to Smuggler's
Cove, you will see and island in the middle. Be sure
to stay well clear of the island, as it is shallow
there. Keep between the markers as you approach.
As you look to the right coming in, you'll see Pier
99 Marina to the right just around the corner from
the boat ramp, above.
Above, the 100-300 slips at Smugglers Cove
Further left, above, is the fuel dock at Smuggler's
Above, around the other side of Smuggler's Cove the
400-600 slips. To the right and behind would be the
store and restrooms/showers, below.
Inside the store, we were greeted by Tim Meyer, Owner.
He runs Smuggler's Cove Marina, as well as the hotel
across the street. They lease out the restaurant facility,
and have camping sites along the river bank.
Above, views from the campground behind
the restaurant. You can see Markland Locks and Dam
in the distance.
We found the trip up the river to be scenic. On the
way home, we stopped for the night at the KY River
in Carrolton (another article) and had lunch the following
day in Madison. We found that breaking a longer trip
into smaller segments made it very enjoyable, even
for the children.
As for Smuggler's Cove, we have nothing
but great things to say about their service. When I
first called them, they provided directions for entering
the marina and told me about the clearance markings
on the bridge (20' at normal pool). They told me how
to find them and what to watch out for. The have a
great ship's store with parts and supplies to beer
and ice cream. They had DVDs to rent, but we didn't
find any for the kids. Speaking of the kids, they were
a little freaked out by the concept of the bullfrog
spears for sale--ah, memories. This is the location
that was formerly "Dan's" if
somebody tells you to go there.
One last word about going into Craig's Creek--watch
your speed between the bridge and the marinas. They
have a brand new no-wake zone that the marinas like
but the residents are unhappy with, and you can face
a $200 fine for creating a wake. The first I heard
about it was a sign in the marina store, then on this
forum. Good thing we kept the speed down going in there.
Founder, Port KY
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.