By Jeremy Patton
Rockcastle Boat Ramp, AKA London Dock, is located in Laurel County, Kentucky.
From I-75 in London, drive west on KY-192 for about 15 miles. Turn left onto KY-1193. Bear right onto KY-3497. Continue until the road dead-ends at Rockcastle Campground.
Rockcastle Boat Ramp resides near the confluence of the Rockcastle and Cumberland Rivers. From there, you can follow the Rockcastle River north to Bee Rock Campground, the Cumberland River west to Somerset or south to Cumberland Falls. Opportunities to explore the rivers and their tributaries from this launch site abound.
The area was once known as London Dock. It bustled with activity, but now the dock and boats are gone. My friend Jimmy informed me that the dock was relocated to Beaver Creek. The Rockcastle became shallow when officials lowered Lake Cumberland to repair Wolf Creek Dam.
The parking lot is spacious, but seldom receives more than a few visitors. The nearby Rockcastle Campground still operates, but it is closed during the colder months.
On 9/10/16, I launched my kayak from Rockcastle Boat Ramp and paddled up the Rockcastle for about 3 miles to Lower Troublesome Creek. It was my second kayak trip ever. I have hiked countless miles in the surrounding forests over the years, but paddling the river made it all seem new and refreshing. It made travel easier as well. In a few hours, I traveled distances that would take all day across rugged terrain.
The familiar waterfalls along the route were nearly dry: Tweed Branch Falls, Bear Creek Falls and Powerline Falls. I visited Lower Troublesome Creek Falls, which had a decent flow. I examined the width of the creek and the crest of the waterfall and surmised that it would be impressive during high water. I first located it via satellite and was excited to finally get a close look.
On the way back to Rockcastle Boat Ramp, a storm moved in, which was surprising because the weather report had predicted partly cloudy skies. The wind picked up and threw tree limbs and debris into the water. There was no heavy rain, but the wind tested my novice kayaking skills. It whipped up chopping waves and several times pushed me backward regardless of how hard I paddled. Spray soaked me and limited visibility. I finally stepped onto the ramp, relieved and reminded of nature’s unpredictability.
The night before, I made a late trip to Wal-Mart to buy a cheap life-jacket. They had sold out, so I decided to paddle without one. After the storm, I realized that that was unwise. I am a man who learns from his mistakes, so a life-jacket is now mandatory gear.