The River: Agreeable October brings back memories of “Licking River Ramble” and Fredericks Landing

By Captain Don Sanders
Special at NKyTribune

(The captain of the riverboat is a storyteller, and Captain Don Sanders shares stories of his long association with the river – from discovery to a way of love and life.)

October has always been my favorite month since I first came into the world on an October Saturday eight decades ago. So far this fall month has exceeded expectations for a pleasant climate with above average temperatures for this time of the season.

What I’ve missed since the CLYDE Rafter left for remote places is the “Licking River Ramble” to Fredericks Landing on the Licking, near Wilder, Ky. (Photo P. Richardson)

What I miss since the CLYDE Rafter left for faraway places is the likelihood of a fall cruise, also known as the “Licking River Ramble”, to Fredericks Landing on the Licking, near Wilder, along with Captain Aaron Richardson and his tug, the ELIZABETH LEA. The “L’il Liz”, formerly the JOSEPH THROCKMORTON, was with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Upper Mississippi, near where the CLYDE was built. After purchasing the replica of the stern-powered raft boat from its builder, Ed Newcomb in the spring of 2012, Cappy Everett Dameron and I “steamed” the CLYDE some 1,300 miles with its own wheel. paddles to the Middle Ohio River near Aurora, Indiana.

The CLYDE was perfect for licking much smaller than it was on the mighty Mississippi or the wide rivers of Ohio. Although the brave paddle steamer could handle most of the challenges of the larger rivers, she felt more comfortable “on the Lick”. Or maybe it was I who spent most of my best days as a youth swimming and frolicking on these beloved river shores of the old waterway who thought so, anyway.

The Rafter CLYDE and the ELIZABETH LEA on the Licking River. (Photo P. Richardson)

Phillip Johnson has always been the capable “chief engineer” of CLYDE and I, the captain, was happiest when my youngest son Jonathan Hartford Sanders was a “Cub Pilot”. Phillip, a natural mechanic, has often helped in the engine room of the Steamer BELLE OF LOUISVILLE while he is perhaps best known on inland waterways as one of the owners of the lavish Steamboat DELTA QUEEN. Jonathan immediately showed a natural instinct for piloting a paddle steamer once he got behind the antique wooden steering wheel.

Thomas Durant “Captain Walnut” Schiffer and his brother, the late John Schiffer, brought Walnut’s steamboat, the MISS BLUE, but with no room on their small boat to spend the night, the Schiffer brothers usually settled in. board the CLYDE with us.

The Licking River was some 27 miles upstream of the CLYDE’s permanent berth, and with an average speed against a light current on the Ohio River of just 4 to 6 miles per hour, the average current time for simply reaching the mouth of the smaller stream was 4 ½ to almost 7 hours of navigation. Frederick’s Landing is at the mouth of Three Mile Creek, three miles up the Licking. Paddle boarding on the CLYDE has never been a hobby for anyone eager to get to their destination quickly.

Ashore, we expected special guests and friends from the ship who anticipated our arrival.

Only the most curious and inquisitive students of river morphology can understand that the Licking River was the main stream in what would later become northern Kentucky before the large patches of ice moved south. in the region during the Pleistocene, or Ice Age, which began about 2.6 million years ago. The much wider, deeper, and longer Ohio River is just a young born after the last frozen material moved north just 12 to 15,000 years ago. Of all the many rivers and streams I have traveled, worked and played on, primitive licking remains my all time favorite waterway.

Our destination, Frederick’s Landing Park, on the edge of Three Mile Creek, was a wilderness above the L&N Railroad and the Kenton County Water Line bridges when my brothers Dick and Bob and I “claimed” it. ground like our “new camp”. Although we guys were accomplished river newts, our usual swimming hole was further downstream, for in those happy days a roaring rapid tumbled over a rocky raft at the mouth of the creek. Only once did my brothers and our cousin Ray Cooper swim through the rough white water when, as the oldest child, I had to take care of my parents while they “pulled the rapids” while I was on them. watched longingly as they cruised the roaring falls dressed only. in their chic drawers, and of course, no life jackets.

Once the two boats reached the landing stage, Aaron always nosed down first and tied the LIZ to a pair of sturdy trees on the shore perfectly suited to contain the two boats. Once L’IL LIZ is ready, the CLYDE docks and attaches itself to its fittings, and soon the word has passed… “ALL FAST.

An evening ride on the CLYDE offered everyone a rare opportunity to enjoy the beautiful licking from the deck of an authentic paddle steamer. Betsy and Jeff Sanders. (Photo by Bob Sanders)

Ashore, we expected special guests and friends from the ship who anticipated our arrival. Among them were Captain Bill Judd and his wife Darlene, my brothers Bob and Jeff and their better halves Betsy and Shirley Sanders, former riverboat mate Frank Jones and other fans and friends interested in seeing the CLYDE and the LIZ arrive at the Licking River. landing. Perhaps an evening ride on the CLYDE gave everyone a rare opportunity to enjoy the lovely licking from the deck of an authentic paddle steamer.

Shortly after returning to the LIZ’s side, the smoky aroma of freshly grilled burgers wafted over the calm, cool air by the water and all on board settled in for a relaxed evening recalling memories of the boats and well. often those, since deceased, who equip them. As the evening cooled and turned dark, our guests bid farewell. Shortly after the taillights of the last car disappeared from the parking lot, each of us packed our sleeping gear, said goodnight, and fell into a restful sleep listening to the soft sounds moving along. the river beyond the boats.

Ashore, we expected special guests and friends from the ship who anticipated our arrival. Among them was Captain Bill Judd.

Of course, throughout the night I was often up inspecting the two boats to make sure they and their inhabitants were safe – obviously an old habit I had acquired from my passenger ship days on the AVALON Steamers. and DELTA QUEEN. At dawn, Aaron and his crew were the first to wake up.

My biggest concern after carefully folding the sleeping bag over the pilot’s bunk was tapping into the generator onboard LIZ to run my Mister Coffee maker. After a hot cup of “morning joe”, I was ready for whatever beckoned me during the day ahead. By this time, the aroma of burnt wood caught everyone’s attention to Captain Walnut’s steamboat firing the boiler for an early morning steamboat cruise aboard MISS BLUE.

Throughout the day we enjoyed the best of all the happy lifestyle that the ancient river offered. Another ride, a river boat race, more friends, great food and another night on the water. The next morning, Sunday morning, the boat’s two crews dreaded leaving the Licking for the long drive back downstream to Aurora, but Phillip and Aaron had to be at work early Monday and there was no way around. these obligations. If we had had the choice, a few more days, if not a week at Fredericks Landing, we would all have had a great time.

My biggest concern after carefully folding the sleeping bag over the pilot’s bunk was tapping into the generator onboard LIZ to run my Mister Coffee maker. (Photo P. Richardson)

Both crews of the boat were apprehensive about leaving the Licking for the long journey back downstream to Aurora. (Photo P. Richardson)

Captain Don Sanders is a river man. He has been a riverboat captain with the Delta Queen Steamboat Company and with Rising Star Casino. He learned to fly an airplane before learning to operate a “machine” and becoming a captain in the USAF. He is an adventurer, a historian and a storyteller. Now he is a columnist for the NKyTribune and will share his stories of growing up in Covington and his stories from the river. Hang on for the ride – the river has never looked so good.

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