Back in the time when Elvis swept through the nation like a prairie fire and cars had fins, the Watterson Expressway in Louisville was a two-lane bypass and possessed sidewalks.
Floyd’s Fork Creek seemed way out in the country then, surrounded by pasture lands with a working distillery along its banks. The ensuing decades saw suburban development creep ever outward toward the creek. By the time the Gene Snyder Freeway completed its loop around Louisville in the late 1980s, Floyd’s Fork wasn’t out in the country anymore.
The visionaries behind the 21st Century Parks wanted to save the unique beauty and character of Floyd’s Fork Creek. They raised private funds to acquire property along its flow and protect it for future Kentuckians to enjoy.
Their creation is the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork, a series of five parks encompassing roughly 4,000 acres that will open 27 miles of floating water when construction ends in 2015. Paddlers can enjoy about 11 miles of water through three different floats through the section of Floyd’s Fork now open to public use.
Floyd’s Fork rises in Henry County and flows for 62 miles through Jefferson and Bullitt counties over a rocky bottom with small rapids, flowing shoals and long, deep pools, providing made-to-order habitat for all three black bass species in Kentucky: the smallmouth, largemouth and spotted (Kentucky) bass.
From U.S. 60 downstream to U.S. 150, there is a one-fish daily creel limit and 15-inch minimum size limit for largemouth and smallmouth bass on the stream.
The best floating levels for fishing and recreation are 35 cubic feet per second (cfs) up to 500 cfs. Higher levels are for experienced paddlers only. The Parklands of Floyd’s Fork website shows the current flow level in the upper right corner of its homepage at www.theparklands.org.
The first two-mile float begins at North Beckley Paddling Access in Beckley Creek Park, off U.S. 60 in Eastwood, and ends at Creekside Paddling Access. This float is perfect for a weekday float after work in summer. Each of the paddling accesses in the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork possess lockable structures where boaters can lock a bike or boat while they retrieve their vehicle, allowing paddlers to self shuttle.
This stretch flows small and intimate and holds good numbers of smallmouth, spotted and rock bass along with some largemouth bass. After launching, Floyd’s Fork makes a long, gentle bend to the right. Downed timber in this section holds largemouth and spotted bass.
The creek then bends hard right and almost back on itself again as the Fork flows around The Oxbow. The boulder-strewn left-hand bank holds smallmouth bass. A green-pumpkin tube bait rigged on a 1/8-ounce leadhead is a great summer choice for these fish. Chugger-style topwater baits work well on summer evenings just before dusk. Stay in the main current and avoid the small channel on the left while floating this bend.
As the creek leaves The Oxbow, the rumbling of I-64 hits the ears of paddlers and the first of the new “leaping deer” designed bridges on Beckley Creek Parkway comes into view. This bridge and the North Beckley Access are the two stocking spots for rainbow trout on Floyd’s Fork.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocks a total of 3,600 rainbow trout in October, March and April. These fish provide fishing opportunity and table fare until early summer, but are under seasonal catch and release regulations from Oct. 1 through March 31. All trout caught must be immediately released and only artificial baits may be used during this time.
After flowing under the I-64 bridge, Floyd’s Fork braids into a series of water willow-lined chutes and gravel bars that require some dragging in summer. At the end of these chutes, the creek plunges into deeper holes that hold smallmouth bass.
At the end of the bend, the next of the new bridges comes into view. The take-out is on the right (looking downstream) just past the Gheens Foundation Lodge. Look for stairs made of large tan-colored stones that lead to the parking area.
The next float begins at Creekside Paddling Access and ends about 4 ½ miles downstream at the Fisherville Paddling Access. Beckley Creek enters Floyd’s Fork just downstream of this access on the right. Anglers should work the root wads and woody cover in the mouth of Beckley Creek with a 3-inch soft plastic jerkbait rigged weightless. Pearl and Albino Shad are productive colors.
Let this bait slowly sink near the cover and gently jerk the rod tip to repeat the process. Any of the three black bass species nearby cannot resist this presentation, especially in early summer. It looks just like a struggling baitfish.
Floyd’s Fork flows around a bend to the right and then over gravel shoals that paddlers need to walk through at low water. After the shallower section, the creek then enters one of its most picturesque sections as Floyd’s Fork cuts down into a more entrenched stream.
The beginning and ends of the deeper holes through this section make an excellent spot to throw a 4-inch black finesse worm rigged on a 1/8-ounce leadhead for smallmouth bass. The creek then passes under another of the new bridges and flows against the gorgeous bluff of Distillery Bend.
Distillery Bend draws its name from the Grosscurth Distillery once located here that produced the Kentucky Supreme label. In April of 1968, an explosion rocked the distillery and witnesses said the flames from the resulting fire could be seen in Louisville. This episode ended production at the distillery.
The water runs deeper here, a hydrological remainder of the old distillery dam. A soft plastic jerkbait slowly worked along undercut banks, root wads or downed tree limbs attracts largemouth and spotted bass.
The creek flows over some shallow bars and under the high bridge on Echo Trail. Long Run enters Floyd’s Fork on the left and adds more water volume to the creek. Anglers should probe the flowing water before and below riffles for smallmouth bass in summer through here.
The creek makes a long bend to the right and under the Norfolk Southern Railroad Trestle and the Taylorsville Road (KY 148) bridge. The deeper holes in this section hold surprising bluegill.
Paddlers will float past the once vibrant community of Fisherville and through a straight stretch before passing under the KY 155 bridge. The take-out at Fisherville Paddling Access is on the right, just after the bridge.
The next float begins at Fisherville Paddling Access and ends at Cane Run Paddling Access 4 ½ miles downstream. Just after launching, paddlers should stay to the right through a braided section before reaching a hard left bend. Pope Lick enters Floyd’s Fork in this bend and adds more water.
The remainder of this float gives the paddler a good impression of what Floyd’s Fork looked like 50 years ago. The creek grows deeper and more riverine in this stretch, with deep holes interspersed by drops. Channel catfish lurk in the undercut banks of these deeper holes.
Cast a piece of sponge soaked in dip bait rigged on a 3/0 circle hook along these undercut banks. Let the scent flow downstream. Catfish will follow the scent plume back to the source and eat it. Stream channel cats fight harder than their lake-bound cousins and make excellent table fare. Wads of nightcrawlers also work well for stream catfish.
Anglers should prospect fallen tree limbs and root wads in the deeper holes for largemouth and spotted bass in this stretch, while smallmouth bass hang in the flowing water just above and below stream drops.
Floyd’s Fork makes a sharp right hand bend after a relatively long straight stretch, then flows straight before another right turn. Cane Run enters the creek on the left in the middle of the second right bend. The take-out is about 50 yards upstream in Cane Run on the right. Look for signs along the creek to direct you.
Paddlers may now rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboards for floating Floyd’s Fork from a vendor. Check the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork website for more information.
The Blue Water Trails series supports Gov. Steve Beshear’s Adventure Tourism Initiative. Go here for a detailed map.
The Parklands of Floyd’s Fork: