Cloverlick Creek - Whitewater Paddling

Hidden outside the coal town of Cumberland, Kentucky, Cloverlick Creek is a feeder tributary of the Poor Fork of the Cumberland River. Appalachian history enthusiasts will recognize this area as one of the most productive coal fields in the Southern range. Thus, the area is a great place to both adventure and explore the history of eastern Kentucky.
Over the course of four miles, the Cloverlick Creek offers challenging rapids and iconic holes among local paddlers. Depending on the flow, the Cloverlick can be everything from a great beginner’s run to a formidable class IV challenge.
What Makes It Great
Eastern Kentucky, particularly the headwaters of the Cumberland, offers incredible whitewater runs like the Cloverlick. Unlike other popular paddling experiences, the Cloverlick isn’t surrounded by a national park or forest, but instead runs right outside the small town of Cumberland.
Start by locating the put in, which is a small area that local churches use for baptism. The put-in only has enough area for 1-2 cars to park, so plan on consolidating vehicles if you’re meeting other paddlers. Right off the bat, you’ll experience the first rapid (aptly named “Baptized”), with a river center drop of 2-3 feet. After this first rapid, you’ll enjoy a swift shoal that will take you to the next set of rapids, a series of flat bedrock slides with fun drops and surfable pools deemed “double wide slides.”
After another stretch of swift riffles, you’ll go over the through the main attraction: “the Squeeze.” Though the name may intimidate some beginners, this run is nothing to be afraid of. Funneled in between two large boulders, this drop literally shoots you through a narrow channel for an exhilarating ride.
The next rapid, “Dragstrip,” is a little more tricky to negotiate. This rapid is a class IV at most flows and is strewn with boulders. This technical section is a lot of fun to weave through, but it’s not a “go along with the ride” kinda run.
Beyond “Dragstrip,” you’ll encounter a few other swift sections before hitting the bridge and the rapids under it. Under normal flow conditions, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting under the bridge, but check it out on the way up to the put-in to make sure there is plenty of room to get under it.
Right after the bridge on river right, you’ll see the sandy take-out area.
Directions, Parking & Regulations
No matter where you’re coming from, you’ll have to go up College Road to get to the put-in. While heading up the road, you’ll be able to scout most of the water that you’ll be paddling, so really use this time to look for strainers and the exact line that you plan to take.
Who is Going to Love It
Cloverlick itself is a great run. At four miles, it’s a great half-day run that anybody can enjoy during a day of multi-sport exploration.
It goes without saying that whitewater is dangerous, so beginners should go with an experienced paddler that can read the river, understand water levels, and help identify trouble areas like strainers. For seasoned paddlers, this run is a lot of fun and also offers some great holes for surfing and playboating without crowds from “park and play”.

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