As the weather warms up, things get a little busier for Canoe Kentucky.

The paddling season for the canoe and kayak retailer begins on April 1, when the company starts boat rentals for the summer. Canoe Kentucky has also added new tours, more summer camps and expanded the Kentucky River Jam art and music festival.

Nathan and Allison Depenbrock are the current owners of the family-owned business that has been operating for about 38 years. It focuses on retail for kayak and canoeing as well as paddle boating on the Elkhorn Creek, said Chris Howard, Canoe Kentucky’s outreach coordinator.

“Earlier in the summer, the better,” Howard said. “The water is better. There’s prettier views of wildlife. If someone is just wanting to come out and rent for the day, April, May, June is beautiful.”

Canoe Kentucky is also partnering with West Sixth Farm and Buffalo Trace Distillery for paddle tours. For the West Sixth Farm paddle tours, attendees will meet at the farm before being shuttled to Canoe Kentucky to launch a six-mile tour of Elkhorn Creek. Following the trip, attendees will go back to the farm to tour the facility and visit the taproom. The April 7 West Sixth Farm tour sold out in 24 hours, but the April 28 event is still open, according to Canoe Kentucky’s Facebook page.

The Buffalo Trace paddle tour is on June 9 and will travel through Lock and Dam No. 4 to the distillery, where paddlers will tour the grounds for 45 minutes and then have a barbecue lunch. Canoe Kentucky’s Facebook page estimates the trip will take around three hours. The two companies partnered for a similar tour in the past.

Canoe Kentucky has had its summer camp program for about five years, Howard said, but has expanded this season to 17 different camps. The business is bringing back its Adventure Camp, which is a day camp that runs on weekdays throughout the camp season. Canoe Kentucky also has an overnight camp that will be for four weeks this summer and a Level Up camp, which is more challenging and adventurous for campers. A new fishing-specific camp has also been added to the schedule, Howard said.

The summer camps run from the first week of June to the second week of August and are for ages 5 to 15, Howard said. Those who are 16 and older could be a part of the counselor program.

The business also offers whitewater rafting on Elkhorn Creek as water is suitable for rafting, which may these limited trips due to water levels, Howard said. These are guided trips only.

Canoe Kentucky also plans to host the Kentucky River Jam again this year, adding two more dates than last year. Howard said the festival is the business’ biggest event it has planned. Kentucky Employees Credit Union is the financial sponsor while Canoe Kentucky is the organizing sponsor, he said.

“Those are bringing in bands that are not normally found in Frankfort,” Howard said.

The River Jams will be held on Saturdays in downtown Frankfort and have bands play while art vendors are set up during the concert. Proceeds from the booth fees each concert go to a different non-profit organization. Howard said the event is also still accepting vendors.

The dates, headliners and non-profits for the Kentucky River Jam are:

  • May 18, Down To The River, Bourbon Branch and Matthew Douglas Simpson and benefit the Kentucky Waterways Alliance
  • June 22, Driftwood Gypsy and Trippin Roots and benefit the Bluegrass Wildwater Association, Inc.
  • July 27, The Allman Butter Band and Dustin Collins and the non-profit is TBD
  • Sept. 14, 49 Winchester, Donnie Bowling and Prototype and benefit the Life Adventure Center
  • Oct. 19, Buck the Taxidermist and Lauren Mink and the non-profit is TBD

“Those are really fun. Those are really are biggest events that happen this summer,” Howard said.

While many of these events are in Frankfort’s backyard, Howard said a lot of locals do not attend these events. He said many come from Lexington or Louisville to take advantage of Canoe Kentucky’s summer events and programs. The business hopes that events like the Kentucky River Jam and the summer camps could strengthen its tie to the community.

“That’s why we do the Kentucky River Jam, why we have a presence on the Kentucky River in downtown Frankfort,” Howard said. “We’d really love to see a lot more people from Frankfort come out.”

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