Martins Fork Lake JK Mini-Tripper Maiden Voyage

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Martins Fork Lake is located along the Martins Fork of the Cumberland River at the confluence of Cranks Creek in the scenic Appalachian Mountains of Harlan County Kentucky. Martins Fork flows northerly from the dam to the town of Harlan at the confluence of Clover Fork, then nearby confluence of Poor Fork where the Cumberland River begins. The lake was authorized by the Flood Control Act of October 1965 to provide flood control, recreation, and water quality control. I was five at the beginning of the Martins Fork Lake project in 1973, and ten years old when the lake was impounded in 1978, the year after Harlan County’s 1977 catastrophic flood.

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I remember Martins Fork and Cranks Creek before the lake as two small streams converging in the fields of rare mountain farmland. A country store was located next to a metal bridge that crossed Martins Fork. We lived in a house overlooking what is now a lake for a brief period before the project started. One of my earliest memories was fishing the pond near the house through a hole chopped in the ice. An outline of the pond can be seen when the lake level is low. I followed along with my dad many days and nights hunting and trapping in the area before it was impounded. We spent many days and nights fishing and gigging in the area after it was impounded. I worked maintenance at the lake the summer before I left Harlan to attend college. I will always be connected to this special location surrounded by the beautiful Appalachian Mountains I call home. My family descended from great-great grandfather Dr. Robert Napier hosts a reunion each year at the lake.

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Visiting Martins Fork Lake with my son Milo brings back memories, and creates new memories. I sometimes ponder what childhood moments he will recall as an adult. He loves to swim at the beach area, fish, camp, hike, and paddle. Milo started kayaking with me before the age of one. We enjoy many paddling destinations. Martins Fork Lake is a special paddling destination surrounded by mountains and memories. I enjoyed watching Milo’s four year old confidence and independence during the maiden paddle in Jackson Kayak Mini-Tripper.

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