Bryan Cole paddled his blue kayak onto the Owensboro riverfront at 5:30 p.m. Friday and tied it beneath the Kentucky Legend Pier behind the Owensboro Convention Center.

He spent the weekend in town and then headed downriver on Monday morning, on his way to paddling the length of the Ohio River along Kentucky's northern border.

It's just something he's wanted to do for a while, the 60-year-old former Owensboro resident said.

Cole is just the latest in a long line of people who have wanted to challenge the elements and the river.

But he's the first to stop here on such a journey in several years.

River travelers were a lot more common back in the 1970s.

In 1975, Ronnie Bonecutter and Dave Hendershot brought their canoe ashore in Owensboro.

They were on a 9,500-mile journey to recreate Merriwether Lewis and William Clark's western expedition of 1804-06, they said.

Both men were dressed in buckskin and wearing leather moccasins.

They did their best to recreate the look of 1804 as well as the journey.

That was also the year that Ron Butler, a 32-year-old Madisonville lawyer, was running for lieutenant governor.

Part of his campaign included traveling the Ohio River in a motorized flatboat, campaigning in river towns.

He didn't win the election.

But he got a lot of attention.

In 1979, Bruce Devine, a disabled 38-year-old Marine, came by in his canoe on a 1,900-mile journey from Cleveland on Lake Erie to New Orleans.

It was something he wanted to prove to himself, he said.

In 1993, Aaron Smith, a 23-year-old U.S. Army veteran, launched his canoe at West Point, this side of Louisville, and headed south to the Gulf of Mexico.

He stopped in Owensboro while on his journey.

There were more, but those are the ones I remember.

It's good to know that there are still adventurous people out there, who like to challenge the Ohio and the elements.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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