For The Beacon
Bowling Green has a lot going on. The third-largest city in Kentucky, it is perhaps best known for being the home of the National Corvette Museum, but it is also a mecca for outdoor adventure enthusiasts and is fast becoming a destination for those who enjoy a good craft beverage or two. This made it a natural fit for an episode of “Downstream,” the Kentucky-based travel adventure show I co-host, which focuses on Kentucky’s liquids both natural and crafted.
Fresh off our regional Emmy win, myself, my co-host Kyle Lake and our production crew of Sam McGhee and Xing Ma headed to Bowling Green to film over two days this past weekend. We were welcomed with open arms by Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Marketing Director Marissa Butler and a host of Bowling Green residents and businesses.
Kyle explored Bowling Green’s expanding craft beverage scene with stops at Traveler’s Cellar Winery, White Squirrel Brewing and Blue Holler Brew Supplies. I hit one of the most popular local waterways, Drakes Creek – a tributary of the Barren River – and explored the famous Lost River Cave with the Director of tours, Chad Singer.
Lost River Cave is one of the oldest attractions in town. It’s is an impressive 150 wide and 45 feet high and is one of the largest natural cave entrances in Kentucky. The Lost River’s pure spring-fed water was used by soldiers during the Civil War, was rumored to have been a hideout of Jesse James, then was home to a number of bootleg distillers before becoming the famous Cavern Nightclub during the days of jazz, swing and big band music. Sadly, it was also used as a local trash dump before being acquired by Western Kentucky University in the 1980s. Later the Friends of Lost River Cave helped to remove a stunning 55 tons of trash from the cave in the 1990s before opening it up to tours to the public.
Today, the cave continues to recover from decades of abuse and is visited by more than 60,000 tourists annually, including 6,000 students. Tours are conducted by boat, making it one of the only caves in Kentucky that can be explored by water. Although kayaking tours are no longer offered in the cave, (a recent change that didn’t make it into my book before it printed), boat tours are offered year-round.
After a quick stop at Beech Bend’s Splash Lagoon, where our Bowling Green episode of “Downstream” opens with my co-host exploring the water park’s lazy river – I headed to Romanza Johnson Park to paddle on the Trammell Fork of Drakes Creek with Western Kentucky University Geology Professor Dr. Christopher Groves. A member of the schools Center for Caves and Karst Studies faculty, Dr. Groves caught me up on the latest research being conducted at WKU – including ongoing explorations of the local cave systems and its corresponding underground waterways. He also provided a great lesson on how Kentucky’s geology – most notably its layers of soluble limestone – helped create its signature Bourbon industry.
Drakes Creek is a very popular paddling stream and there was no shortage of kayakers launching on Saturday while we filmed. The Bowling Green CVB maintains a fantastic website, Warren County Blueways, with interactive and printable maps of local waterways including Drakes Creek and its Trammel Fork, Middle Fork and West Fork along with the Barren River, Gasper River, and Green River accessible at trailsrus.com/blueways/index.html. (My recently released FalconGuide “Paddling Kentucky,” includes a paddle on Drake’s Creek launching from Romanza Johnson park, along with paddles on the Gasper, Barren and Green Rivers too.)
To finish off our show in Bowling Green, we headed to the Preservation Tasting Room and Bottle Shop. (I was driven there by my husband in a Subaru toting two kayaks while Kyle was delivered by a professional driver in a 1974 Corvette Stingray.)
Recently named one of the nation’s 15 best tasting rooms, Preservation Tasting Room features a curated selection of wines, beers, bourbons and cocktails. A rotating selection are available from 23 stainless steel taps that co-owner Blake Layne infuses with a variety of gases including nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide. While Kyle toasted the end of the show with a draft German-style Marzen, I enjoyed an Italian Peach Moscato that receives a hit of nitrogen gas as its poured, giving it a creamy foam head and it's sweet peach flavor a dose of steroids.
The Bowling Green episode of “Downstream” will be released later this fall.