Spectacular scenery, great rapids but tough to catch in its entirety at runnable levels characterizes this 2 mile section of the Laurel River. Releases can provide about 2 miles of fun rapids in very cold water. Even at the height of the summer, paddlers will want to take along their cold weather boating gear since the release water flows from the bottom of Laurel Lake and is "ice cream headache" cold. Unfortunately, due to typical "summer pool" levels for Lake Cumberland, a summertime run on the Laurel could mean that the final (and only class IV) rapid China hole/Whorehouse will be covered under the lake's water.Putin: just below the Laurel Lake Dam, off KY1193.Takeout: confluence with the Cumberland River and Lake Cumberland.Shuttle: Follow KY1193 south across the Laurel River Dam and then go right on KY1277 and follow till it dead ends at the confluence of Laurel River and Lake Cumberland.In 2007-2013 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers performed an emergency drawdown of Lake Cumberland, which the Laurel is a tributary/headwater of. The project to repair the dam, the reason for the drawdown, was successfully completed after 6 years and over $300 million in repair cost to prevent seepage of the earthen portion of Wolf Creek Dam. All Cumberland River Tributaries that headwater into Lake Cumberland are now back to their normal levels sadly removing many good whitewater rapids. The best time to see these rapids are during the late summer when the lake is drawn down. Starting November 1 of each year the lake begins to fill back up.
Lead in and hole immediately above Whorehouse Rapid. One of the nastiest holes anywhere at the 3 ft release ~3500-4000 CFS. Avoid punching this whole at all costs because it will have you for lunch and dinner. The hero route is next to the hole on either shoulder. Some go right some go left. Scout it before you run it. During the regular summer pool this rapid is covered by the upper reaches of Lake Cumberland. It appears around 705-710 Ft at Lake Cumberland elevation.
Nasty Class V at the 2 & 3 feet (2500-400 CFS) releases. Very difficult canyon and boulder portage can be had. Some say the portage is better on the left. This rapid is very rare to be seen due to the elevation of Lake Cumberland covering it up most of the time. When Lake Cumberland elevation is below 705 ft look for it whether its there or not. More often than not its a pushed in hole by the lake and a nasty one at that. When the lake is down for maintainence and during September/October the rapid could be formidable.
We paddled this stretch in the summer of 2010 and with the lake down, Whore House is completely exposed and should be rated a class V - because of the push, the length and the moves to avoid some substantial and large holes. We had near 4000 cfs and it was a very substantial rapid. The rating scale is off - should be clear that there is a class V on this.
Brent Austin 1-9-11
9 years ago
by Brent Austin
Check the USACE Gauge for current release and lake level info.
Flow from the Laurel Lake Dam is controlled by East Kentucky Power Cooperative in Winchester. Predictions of releases are very difficult even for EKP, as the dam is used to provide "peak power" electrical generation.
Here is their description of the releases: "Generating Schedule
The generation schedule starting XX through XX at about X pm.
However, as always this schedule is subject to change without notice. Generations are performed at times of peak electricity usage, causing difficulty pinpointing exactly when generations will be held."
While runnable year round, the best opportunity for catching the Laurel is probably during the months of August and September when hot summer temperatures increase the demand for electrical power generation.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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Laurel Dam Releasing
Atypical summer day on the Laurel
In the trough of the Gorrilla
Surfing 90 degree air and 40 degree water
Dec. 2004 Flood 3
Dec. 2004 Flood 2
Dec. 2004 Flood
We lost our boats
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