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Don Brannen and Teresa Bauer traveled from Cincinnati Sunday to kayak in Elkhorn Creek. (Linda Younkin/State Journal)

On Sunday vehicles were lined up near campgrounds, on the sides of roads in eastern Franklin County and parked at American Whitewater in Peaks Mill, with license plates from Franklin, Johnson, Montgomery, Woodford and Fayette counties.

People are flocking to Elkhorn Creek this summer to kayak, a sport that’s had a surge in popularity.

“We usually see things slow during the week and busy on the weekends,” said Nathan Depenbrock, a co-owner of Canoe Kentucky. “What we’re seeing this year is we’re busy seven days a week.

“On the rental side I think we’ll end up 50 to 75% higher than we normally are.”

Besides renting kayaks and canoes, Canoe Kentucky also sells them.

“We can’t keep up with the demand,” Depenbrock said. “We get new ones about every three weeks, and they’re all sold in a week. One issue is manufacturing and trying to keep up with the demand. It’s the same with the big-box stores.

“If someone came in and ordered a specific boat, it would be January or February before they’d get it.”

Theresa Bauer and her husband, Don Brannen, traveled from Cincinnati Sunday to kayak on Elkhorn Creek.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “The water is nice and clean. My husband has been teaching kayaking in Cincinnati for 20 years, and this is a great place to bring people. It’s not far to drive from Louisville or Lexington, and it’s a nice day trip for us.”

Kayaking is a sport that works well with protocols in place for COVID-19.

“A lot of people are taking it up,” Stephen Richeson, of Lexington, said. “You don’t have to be around people.”

“With COVID and everything, this is the perfect social distancing activity,” Depenbrock said. “In a canoe you have to sit at least 8 feet apart.”

Water sports are getting people out of their houses after spending months inside because of the pandemic.

“People want to do something to get outside,” Depenbrock said. “I don’t think it’s all about COVID. I think there are younger, more outdoor-oriented people who have taken up the sport.”

Bauer is happy to see that.

“I wish people would do it more,” she said. “It’s a great way to decompress and get some peace, to get rejuvenated.”

It’s that aspect that makes Depenbrock think the sport’s popularity won’t wane whenever the pandemic passes.

“I think it will continue to grow,” he said. “It’s been great for people looking to try something in their own backyard. Now they say, ‘Hey, the Kentucky River is pretty awesome,’ and ‘Elkhorn Creek is pretty cool.’

“People should consider taking a lesson or talking to a professional before taking up the sport and always wear a life jacket.”

There’s one more benefit to kayaking.

“Sunshine is healthy,” Brannen said, “and people are starting to realize that.”

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