Tag Archives: Elkhorn City

Come on EC Let’s hit the Trail! Elkhorn City: Kentucky Trail Town

On Thursday, June 14th, the Elkhorn City Council fielded a presentation from Elaine Wilson the Executive Director of the Kentucky  Office of  Adventure Tourism.   Ms. Wilson came speak to our town about Elkhorn City becoming a Kentucky Certified Trail town.    She spoke about the trail town concept and the many things the community can do to improve the experience of the trail user.   The topics ranged from improving signage to purchasing bike racks and from marketing to economic development.

Someone with resources, expertise in their field, and the potential to literally put our town on the map took time out of their schedule to come and tell us how blessed we are to have  the quality and caliber of trails we have in this town.

When we think about all the things our town is blessed with, from the towering mountains, to our proximity to the Breaks, to the river running through the center of downtown, it’s not often we think about the trails connecting our town to the world. Stretching back to the days the railroad brought prosperity to our town, we prospered because we are in a place that people enjoy coming to, or traveling through.

There are three primary trails that are connected to our town: the Pine Mountain Trail, the Trans-America 76 Bike Trail, and the Russell Fork River. Whether, hiking, biking, or kayaking our town connects you to three remarkable trail systems that offer exactly what you’re looking for in your area of recreation.   The Great Eastern Trail is also coming through town in the near future.

The Pine Mountain Trail currently offers 48 miles of virgin trail. Carved one mile at a time by volunteer labor, this expansive trail is planned to stretch from Elkhorn City to Jellico, Tennessee over 111 miles and inclusion in the Great Eastern Trail by its completion. Well blazed, and following the ridge of the expansive Pine Mountain, every couple of miles it feels like a brand new trail. The scenery always shifting from the top of the peaks rolling through dense woodland, past geologic oddities and historic sites every scene reinvigorates you with the sense of purpose that only distance hiking can offer. It’s seclusion at its finest, braving the wilderness with no civilization within 5 miles; every footstep becomes a reminder that only your determination and will power can see you through to the end.

The Transamerica 76 Bike Trail spans from coast to coast, and sees travelers of all kinds. From professional bikers to amateurs with a good cause, bikers flock from all over the world and pass through our town in the process. Just the count from the Rusty Fork regulars tallied 43 states and 17 countries in one year.

Finally, the Russell Fork River for all intents and purposes is a mecca for white water enthusiasts. One of the most technically challenging rivers in the world, with rapids rating as high as the scales go the Russell Fork is another worldwide draw that runs right through the heart of our business sector. Despite the difficulty of paddling through the Gorge, the river breaks down into three and a half sections that range from beginner status on the Lower Russell Fork from Ratliff Hole to Elkhorn, to intermediate on the Upper put-in at Flannigan dam, to world class from Garden Hole down.

Our town has gifts and natural amenities that allow us a sturdy foundation. Just the same as we built our homes upon them, we can also build industry. We can build our community, and we can share in the prosperity from them. Most of all, we can build our own future, and create the world we want to live in.

Here is a link to the slide presentation given by Ms Wilson

Here is a link to The Sheltowee Trace Association’s Trail Town information page

Check out the above links and you will see why Elkhorn City needs to become a Kentucky Trail Town.

Next post will be on the Trial Town process and how we get it done.


Elkhorn City Growth? … Just Add Water!

This is a guest post by my good friend Brent Austin.  Brent is an attorney from Lexington, Kentucky.  Brent has been coming to Elkhorn City and the Russell Fork for years and has a unique perspective on how Elkhorn City can reach its true potential.


I have been recreating in the Breaks Interstate Park and enjoying the Russell Fork river, since the fall of 1989. Some of you may remember those days, especially in the early 90s when each fall, the towns of Elkhorn City, KY and Haysi, VA, would be jammed packed with “Rafters”, the term given for each and every person that “rode” the river, whether in a raft, kayak or canoe. We would sit in amazement while raft load after raft load came careening down El Horrendo and other rapids in the Gorge. Back then, the Gateway Motel was jam packed and you could not count on a room. The Breaks Park was filled with campers who had come to paddle the river from all over the world. The Rusty Fork Restaurant was not there yet, so many of us jammed in long lines at the Breaks Buffet waiting to eat. The room was usually filled with whitewater folks and it was clear that this area had promise. At that time, areas like Bryson City NC, home area of the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and Fayetteville, WV, situated close to the New and Gauley Rivers, were just starting to grow from the tourism that the rivers in the area brought. And, so it seemed that the potential of Elkhorn City, KY could, too, become such an end target for the discerning whitewater and outdoor adventurer. Heck, even me and James Stapleton thought, for a moment, back in 1995 that the town was perfectly situated for our new outdoor recreation store we considered opening: Appalachian Outdoor Center. We even had Tee shirts and hats embroidered while I was on a kayaking trip in Nepal that year. All we needed was for the Army Corp of Engineers to do what they did at the Gauley River and boom! Instant presto, we would have water and a destination for paddlers all over the world, just like in Bryson City and in Fayetteville. Of course that was when we were a bit younger, less jaded, had that fire in our belly, and thought we could reason with the Army Corp to get managed releases.

Years later, with many gray hairs on my head and in my 50s, I now find myself heading to the Russell Fork from Lexington every chance I get, water level dependent. But, there are now newer, younger paddlers and we have had many studies performed, the river environment the subject of a doctoral thesis and even plans for a whitewater park, if we could get the ACOE to commit to provide us with 200 – 250 cfs, a few times a week for a few hours, during the summer. But, none of that has led to any change in the water management since the early 90s and today, with water management, other than in the first four weekends in October, erratic, undependable and impossible to predict for those not glued to the various gauges, lake levels and flow management criteria, folks look and they go elsewhere. Even then, other than those of us close enough to make a day trip, the RF remains off the radar for the bulk of the world’s whitewater paddlers, again, unless we are talking the first four weekends in October.

Recently, I have been frustrated because as I age, have a family and work responsibilities that keep me close to home, I really look forward to opportunities to go to the Breaks, paddle the river and do some of the activities in the area that my family would enjoy as well. This past Memorial Day is a perfect example. I wanted to go to the river and saw that the lake was a bit over summer pool and that it was not high enough to be a problem. If the ACOE had chosen to do so, they could have saved the 300 cfs release they started on a Tuesday and ended on a Thursday, for the weekend, thus guaranteeing that there would be flow for recreation over the weekend. A simple “call in” recording announcing the release for the weekend, would have spread like wildfire on Boater Talk and other paddling forums, and no doubt, the area would have seen a large influx of folks from all over. But, there was no water left by the weekend and that was not an opportunity for me and my family to come enjoy the river. As a result, we went to the Smoky Mountains where I paddled the Cheoah River and we spent our money eating out in Gatlinburg instead of in the Pike County area. It seems kinda simple for folks like me: Do you want to see Elkhorn City grow? If so, then “Just Add Water”. You will be stunned what will happen.

See you on the river,

Brent Austin

Come see the Pretty Water

Breaks Canyon, located in Breaks Interstate Park.
Image via Wikipedia

On a beautiful Sunday morning in April, at 8:30 am I hear …”Pre wa wa daddy” …. “Pre wa wa daddy.”  At first I can’t make out what my, two year old, Tymee Jo is saying.  She just turned two on March 17th and single words have started to become simple sentences.  “What, baby girl?” I said.  “Pre wa wa, daddy!”  It then dawns on me that she wants to go see the pretty water.

She and I  have been taking a short drive up to Ratliff Hole on Saturday mornings, since the warm weather has begun,  and I have told her to look at the Pretty Water.  Ratliff Hole is the local name for the Breaks Interstate Park, river access area about a mile east of Elkhorn City, Kentucky.

She enjoys it and is content for up to half an hour setting in my lap and watching the in the pretty water.

Upon reflection, I have realized that she is content watching the pretty water because I am content watching the pretty water.  There is a cleansing that comes with watching the pretty water.  It seems that the ups and downs, bumps and bruises, and stress and strain of the week float away with the rush of river.  The sound of the water is soothing and the smell of spring is invigorating.

Often, time slows down when Tymee Jo and I go watch the pretty water. The hour we spend together at the river is a source of renewal and strength for me and an amazing time of wonder and discovery for her.  I sometimes look at Tymee Jo’s red hair reflecting against the clear green river and realize that all is perfect at this time in this place.

So if you ever need some time for reflection and renewal come and see the pretty water. You will probably see Tymee Jo and I sitting by the river.

The pretty water in this post is the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River.  It is the

The Russell Fork with Pine Mountain in the background

most pristine waterway in the Commonwealth of Kentucky form the Virginia state line through Elkhorn City, Kentucky.  The Russell Fork is a destination for thousands of boaters, paddlers, fisherman and pretty water watchers like Tymee Jo and I.

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