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Difficulty I-II
Length 4 Miles
Gauge East and West Hickman Creek Combined
Flow Range 350 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 8 years ago 10 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 08/01/2003 5:01 pm

River Description

This section is largely flat and at most flows offers only a (somewhat) scenic and tranquil float. As with many central Kentucky streams, the water quality is not exactly great and laced with its fair share of agricultural waste. There is also a treatment plant upstream, although the vast majority of contamination is likely derived from cows rather than people.

The most notable feature on this section (at least for short deck boats) is a good wave that forms just upstream of the takeout bridge. It is possible to access this wave as a park and surf option by taking a left on John Watts road just before the takeout bridge. (John Watts is a gravel road right in front of a small "house" which has a variety of yard decorations. It appears as if the road is the driveway to this house, but it is a county road and apparently this end is slated to be paved in the near future.) After turning on John Watts, you will drive approximately 1/10 of a mile and through several hundred yards of 6"-18" deep water. The wave is right next to an old junked car, with the best parking on the rock shelf just downstream and out of the road.

***Access to the park and surf has changed slightly due to high water in the Spring of 2003. The junked car has been carried downstream some 200-300 yards and therefore no longer serves as the landmark for the wave. Continue driving upstream of the car and park on the flat rock shelf that divides the creek from the road. Look for a trail right in front of your truck to walk the 40 feet to the wave. Additionally, it appears that either the road grade has been improved, or the creek has deposited enough material, to reduce the amount of water spilling into the road at typical paddling levels. The wave can also be accessed by driving John Watts road from KY 1541 near the put-in for this section. Although this eliminates driving through water, the last 3/4 mile is ungraded and fairly rocky and not the recommended route.***

At the best levels (approximately 6-8 hours after the gauge reads 700-1000 cfs) the wave sponsors many spins in both directions with good eddy access. The problem is judging the timing of the water level. If the water is too high (1200+ cfs), you will have more trouble driving to the wave and the eddy begins to wash out. At low levels (350-500 cfs), the wave turns into more of a slow spinner...not great, but better than sitting on your couch.

CAUTION: Although John Watts road is primarily rock (as of 2/2003), you do have to drive through water to reach the wave and this could be dangerous at high levels. The gauge should only be used as an indicator of the water level, and the online reading, as well as this description, should not serve to replace sound judgment when attempting to access this park and surf. Just in case, four wheel drive and decent ground clearance are recommended.

Rapid Descriptions


Gage Descriptions

East and West Hickman are formed by water spilling out of Lexington's two reservoirs and the virtual gauge is the combined flow of both branches. Both gauges are found upstream of the commonly paddled sections, therefore they are an indicator of future flow and do not take into account small downstream tributaries. Under most conditions, the flow reported on the virtual gauge will take approximately 7-9 hours to reach the takeout bridge. Also, the minimum level is only a guess, as most experience is with levels above 450 cfs. (Unless you are dying for a float or interested in a low-water beginner trip, the fun minimum is likely around 400-500 cfs.) Because this is one of the few online gauges in central Kentucky it can be used as an indicator for additional streams. However, additional data is needed to develop reliable correlations.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

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Greg Woosley


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193780 08/01/03 Greg Woosley n/a