Despite the chill in the air and the cloudy skies, plenty of kayakers, canoers, and paddle boarders made their way to Fort Boonesborough Saturday to participate in the fifth annual Bluegrass River Run.

The event was hosted by Explore Kentucky – a Black-owned and led outdoor-oriented social enterprise- and offered a chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery the Kentucky River has to offer, even if it was a bit chilly.

Gerry James, event coordinator and Explore Kentucky founder, told The Register despite the little bit of rain the morning had seen, he believed Saturday was a beautiful day for being out on the river. He explained the rain had not affected the water much because the Kentucky River was in its summer pool. So, the river was calm and staying steady at around 10.5 feet deep. In addition, James added with the chill in the air, there would be no worry about anyone getting too hot and overexerting themselves.

Jon Henderson, who participated in the six-mile race, said it was a fantastic day to be out on the water.

“As soon as you get moving, you’ll warm right up,” Henderson said. 

The event started at 9 a.m. Saturday with a 14-mile dash “micro-adventure” from the beach at Fort Boonesborough Park, past Proud Mary BBQ to loop around Raven Run and then finish back at Proud Mary. Next, there was a 9:30 a.m. six-mile dash from Fort Boonesborough to Proud Mary.

Shelly Cain participated in the six-mile dash. She noted she had seen many skilled boaters at Fort Boonesborough Saturday, and had no real goal of winning; she just wanted to get out and enjoy nature.

“Our hope is just to have a safe and fun trip and to see the beauty of Kentucky,” Cain said. “I can’t wait to be out there and to look up and see all that natural beauty.”

Finally, the day ended with a leisurely float from Fort Boonesborough to Proud Mary. This allowed people to stop and smell the roses as they made their way along the river. 

“When I’m racing, I get so focused on trying to do my best, I’m not necessarily afforded the chance to enjoy the scenery,” Henderson said. “It’s good to have the balance between competition and relaxation.”

Participating in the float “micro-adventure” were Kalie McKinley and her two children, ages six and eight. McKinley said she started teaching her son, Kellen, kayaking in her family’s pool when he was only 18 months old. The family paddle boards together, and though they are from Indiana, they often find themselves in Kentucky to enjoy the water.

With a vast array of different people from different states with all kinds of different boats, Explore Kentucky’s goal of promoting diversity on the water was a hit.

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