Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors:Blue Water Trails: Licking River
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Licking River derives its name from the many salt springs and licks that attracted extinct prehistoric beasts such as the woolly mammoth, giant mastodon and later animals we know such as elk, white-tailed deer and bison.
Two of the most famous licks along Licking River, the Upper and Lower Blue Licks, start and end with two good floating opportunities for canoeists, kayakers and owners of john boats. This area literally drips with frontier Kentucky history. The remoteness of this part of the Licking and the deep gorge its water carved through the ages make the paddler feel they are in the age of Boone.
The first float begins at Upper Blue Licks in Nicholas County. Upper Blue Licks lies near the eastern edge of Clay Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and once served as the southern terminus of the Cabin Creek War Road. This ancient road served as a highway for Native Americans from north of the Ohio River to hunt the animals drawn to the salt licks at Upper Blue Licks. The road also served as an entry point into the interior of Kentucky for pioneers.
Although pioneers followed the blazes cut in trees and drawings of the sun, moon and animals left by Native Americans on the Cabin Creek War Road to Upper Blue Licks, the modern visitor should use KY 57 north in Nicholas County. The put-in for this 6 ½ mile float is at the end of KY 57 where it meets Licking River. You will see a pull off on the left when the road reaches the river where you can haul your boat down to the river bank. If you keep driving until you parallel the Licking River for a time, you’ve traveled too far.