The intent of this site is to help make our boaters safer and more knowledgable.
While some of this information may seem obvious to anybody who has been on
the river for a while, it should benefit visitors and newcomers alike.
Local Tidbits listed below include:
- Operating near Commercial Activity
- NEW! Propsed Fleeting Plan at Six Mile Island
- Cove at Six Mile Island (Utica)
- Cove at Bethlehem, IN
- Changing River Levels
- Six Mile Island and the Federal
- Commercial Vessels and the Sailing
- Louisville Waterfront
- Twelve Mile Island
- Rope Swings
- Entrance to Harrods Creek
- Barges Cutting the Corners
South through McAlpine Locks
- Cincinnati Cruising
Commercial Activity in General:
The intent of this site is to help make our boaters safer and more knowledgable. In the interest
of safety, I would recommend that boaters refrain
from operating near any commercial activity that
could potentially put themselves, their guests and
their vessels in jeopardy.
Proposed Fleeting Plan at Six Mile Island
This topic deserves its own page! Click here for more information.
Cove at Six Mile Island (Utica)
This topic deserves its own page! Click here for more information.
Photo courtesy of Capt. Joe Frith
Cove at Bethlehem, IN
This topic deserves its own page, too! Click here for more information.
Changing River Levels
The level of the Ohio River is maintained
at navigable depths through the controlled release
of water by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If you
are heading out for a night at anchor or beached aground,
be sure to check this site for information on current
river levels (link to left), as provided by the NOAA.
After a good rain to our north, you
can expect to see levels increase, sometimes by as
much as several feet per day. Conversely, be careful
if you beach when the water levels are up, as they
may drop and leave you sitting on mud. One boat reportedly
spent an entire winter beached at Kentucky Lake for
this very reason.
It is worth noting that since the Spring
2009 upgrades to McAlpine Locks, the river levels don't
seem to rise as much after a rain. They now have increased
throughput, so the current will still increase after
a rain, but the levels don't change as frequently as
in the past.
Here is a link to a description of how to interpret the NOAA hydrograph information: link
Six Mile Island and the Federal Mooring
We received reports from distraught
boaters from the weekends of June 28 and July 5th,
2008. Both weekends, commercial barges tied up very
close to beached recreational boaters on Six Mile Island.
On July 28th, a barge tied to a Federal Mooring Buoy
and came within 100 yards of a beached houseboat. July
5th was a little different in that there were approximately
eight boats beached along Six Mile Island, and a barge
had a houseboat moved. Specifically, the barge was
stopping for a crew change and provisioning. The houseboat's
crew was in a dinghy, with only passengers on the houseboat.
The barge signaled by horn, then, without VHF contact,
called the LMPD to remove houseboat. The houseboat's
owner was reached by cellphone, then, they returned
and moved the boat off the shore and out of the way.
Louisville's recreational boaters have
been using Six Mile Island for over thirty years to
beach, so you can imagine the surprise from this recent
activity. Boaters wrote us asking for opinions on the
matter. For starters, here is an excerpt from the January,
2008 Chart #87:
Until this chart revision, these particular
moorings were labels "Federal Mooring Buoys for
Emergency Use." You may notice that the term "for
Emergency Use" has been removed. Either way, according
to several sources, these mooring buoys are available
for use by commercial traffic at the discretion of
their captains. Unlike us, they do not have as many
options for stopping.
Some points that were raised, in no
- The Federal Mooring System is for
the exclusive use of commercial traffic on the waterways.
- The captain of the (tow) had every
right to use those moorings and choose which ones
he wanted for whatever reason that he deemed necessary.
- Could they have picked another mooring
buoy? We are reminded that these folks are working,
while we are playing.
- If, however, the commercial operator
acted aggressively or in such a manner as to jeopardize
the safe departure of the houseboat from the beach,
that complaint should go to the Coast Guard or to
the Safety Officer for the barge line.
- McAlpine Lock construction the delays
have been more frequent within the last few years.
The message to pleasure boaters is very clear: If
you to wish to beach on six mile island, you may
have to move if a commercial vessel wishes to use
- Monitor VHF ch. 13 for commercial
- What if the houseboat crew was drinking
(somebody asked)? Do we want to go there? Consider
keeping at least one person alert, in case of an
emergency or a requirement to move the boat.
I know that this is not exactly
what you wanted to hear; we're just laying out the
information we've gathered. Captain George East adds
- "In my 25 plus years as a professional
captain delivering boats all over Western Rivers,
the Intercoastal Waterways and most of the major
ports and harbors on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts,
I have found most commercial crews to be courteous
and helpful to pleasure boats. Some have done favors
for me that go above and beyond the norm. As usual
there are always exceptions. Try to keep in mind
when you are sharing the waterways with commercial
Commercial Vessels and the Sailing Lines
Revised October, 2009:
The above river chart segment,
reprinted with permission from the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers, shows an example of the “Sailing Line.” This
line is drawn by the Corps to depict the approximate
center of the navigable channel. It will always be
inside the channel markers, which are indicated by
the red and green markers and buoys.
How do you use this line? Some sources
recommend that you adhere to the line for the best
protection from obstacles. That stands to reason. Other
sources recommend adhering to the line during high
water to lessen shore erosion.
We previously reported line represents
the area that you can expect to find commercial barge
traffic operating. WE WERE WRONG! Tow captains have
reported that they operate within the channel and choose
their course based upon wind and current conditions.
Therefore, they can be anywhere within the channel!
Here is where safety comes to
play: Pay attention to approaching towboats and barges.
Their size may make them appear slow-moving, but
at 10 knots or more, they will be close before you
know it. Given that it can take up to a mile for
some tows to stop, don’t
operate or stop anywhere near their path.
Also, make sure that you have
as a minimum a VHF Radio. If you're having a bad
day and your engine isn't working, at least you can
make a call on Channel 13 or 16, "This
is the USS Minnow, we are unable to move under our
own power, mile 603, approaching barge please acknowledge..." Tow
captains should monitor both, but 13 would be your
best bet for bridge-bridge communications.
For more information, visit our "Resources" tab
to download river charts.
The following has
been reprinted with permission from the Louisville
Waterpark Development Corporation. Click
here to for more information and to visit their
From June 1 to November 1, boaters
may dock at the wharf at their own risk. No alcoholic
beverages may be taken from or to a vessel while at
the wharf. No rafting may occur to vessels tied to
When approaching or leaving the wharf,
check that the channel is free of traffic and cross
the channel directly, taking the shortest path across.
Please look for and stay clear of barge traffic.
The exact location of red markers
may vary slightly from the line indicated on this map.
Twelve Mile Island (Revised 02/10)
the area south of 12 Mile Island a No-Wake Zone?"
it is outside the main channel, the area makes for
a wonderful place to spend a day, evening, or even
weekend. Over 15 years ago, an effort was started to
officially make the area a no-wake zone. Over the years,
many of you have attended meetings, signed petitions
and contributed to the "Twelve Mile Island No Wake
Association." While the efforts have stalled
at the regulatory level, our boating community still
supports these efforts.
As a boater who enjoys the calm waters
in that area, I do my best to respect other boaters
out there. If I want to traverse the area on plane
when there are boats there, I stay to the north side
of the island, closer to the sailing line. A runabout
going through the area can sometimes pass along the
KY shore without causing too much wake at the other
side. If you anchor to the north of the island, you
are close to the sailing line, so don't be too surprised
if you are waked by a towboat or don't get the same
courtesy over there.
You may be saying to yourself, "OK,
I have a PWC so my wake doesn't matter." Even a PWC
or small ski boat creates enough wake to create discomfort
for other boaters who are trying to relax in the sun,
read a book or enjoy a meal. If you're coming through
there and see boats at anchor, I would suggest showing
respect by yielding a wide distance or slowing to a
Just a reminder that as a boater,
you are responsible for your own wake. The river is
a small place where people get to know each other and
recognize their boats after a short time, so please
be safe and respect your fellow boaters.
is continuing to help collect petitions to help seek
the regulatory approval for change. If you haven't
already, please complete a petition and send it to
us using the instructions on the form:
Please help make this area a permanent
Special Anchorage No-Wake Zone!
Also at Twelve Mile Island:
Boaters should exercise caution at
the north end of the island, as the barges that were
there since the 1997 flood have been removed for scrap.
There may still be some sharp metal and debris submerged
in that area!
Above, the scrap operation at the
north end of Twelve Mile Island, Summer 2010.
Rope Swings at
Twelve and Eighteen Mile Islands
Above, the swing at Twelve
What's the story with the rope swings
at Twelve and Eighteen Mile Islands? Specifically,
these have been hoisted by local boaters for recreation.
I, myself, have been known in the past to race to the
swing to be the first one there with the kids on a
As it turns out , there have been numerous
injuries associated with these swings, the most recent
being on a weekend in late July, 2010 at Eighteen Mile
Island. Unfortunately, any time you mix shallow water
with a swing, you've got a set-up for an accident.
It seems that the swings also re-appear every time
they are taken down. Compounding matters, rescue services
are not as readily available on the water when compared
to your back yard.
Here is a link to an article prepared
by Don Dahl, Assistant Chief, North Oldham Fire Dept.
Hopefully you will strongly consider the hazards associated
with these swings.
Entrance to Harrod's Creek
If you're unfamiliar with Harrods
Creek, stay close to the Captain's Quarters docks as
you enter the creek. At normal pool, you should see
this sign sticking up on
the upriver side. You can also note that the water
color changes there, indicating shallow conditions.
Tows Cutting the Corners
Heading down the river from 18 Mile
Island, there have been a few times where I found myself
head-on with an upbound tow near the KY side in the
area of Mile 587. This area features a rather large
bend in the river. On more than one occasion, including
a few night runs, I found myself altering course to
the KY side, far from the Sailing Line, only to get
squeezed along the KY shore by the tow.
Looking at "the big picture" (above),
it's easy to see why a commercial operator would want
to cut the corner and save some time and fuel. As we
mentioned above, the sailing line only approximates
the middle of the navigable channel, and you'll find
commercial traffic anywhere within that channel.
If you have any doubt as to a towboat's
intentions in a narrow channel, keep in mind that you
can call the tow captain on Ch. 13 to let him know
you're there and coordinate side you'll be passing
on (the "one" or
the "two"). More importantly, a radio call
eliminates any question on his part whether you are
situationally aware of his position and direction.
Heading South through McAlpine Locks
Just a reminder to thoroughly review
the river chart before heading south through McAlpine
Locks. It is a trip worth checking out. See "Featured
Articles" for information on the trip and another article
on "Locking Through").
Note that just past downtown,
the channel becomes vary narrow under the bridge
prior to entering the Portland Channel. Consult the
USACE charts for more detail.
Below, the view from the Portland Channel
looking upriver toward downtown. Review USCG Rules
of the Road for operations in a small channel. Specifically,
I would recommend that you give the barges room and
coordinate your passing on VHF ch. 13.
Heading North past River's Edge (Charlestown)
Above, a picture and a plea from River's
Edge Marina. They have been doing well thanks to good
customer service and a good product, and appreciate
Bob Conrad asked me to pass along
that boaters passing by, especially in larger cruisers
and houseboats, should consider their wakes, even from
the other side of the river. Their structure is a pontoon
arrangement mounted to vertical pilings, and it gets
beat up pretty badly by passing boats, often dumping
merchandise from their store shelves.
The large piling to the right in the
above picture was new and completely round last year.
You can see the dents and damage caused by wakes of
passing boats. If you want to experience the rocking
and rolling for yourself, I'd suggest having a lunch
or dinner at their picnic tables on a weekend--you'll
witness the power of wakes first hand.
If you happen to visit Cincinnati,
be aware that unlike KY rules that state you should
be at no-wake speeds within 100' of the shoreline,
the Ohio rule is 300'. This is being enforced in the "bridges" area
of downtown Cincinnati. This area is narrow, and it's
easy to get dinged by the authorities there.
If you visit a large event in Cincinnati such as RiverBend, be aware that they sometimes establish a no-wake zone as long as 18 miles. Check with local sources for more information.
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