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The Oxbow

     For those of you that now have the book Swift in your collection you may have some questions. If you have not read the book the following information will not be a spoiler for you. The chapters covering this topic are well into the book and have not been posted as sample chapters. I am speaking of the Oxbow.
Looking across Ky river toward the mouth of Benson Creek
     So you may wonder what in the world is an oxbow. Well, in practical terms most of us will arrive at the fact it is a wooden yoke or harness used in ancient times up through pioneer times to hitch two oxen together to pull carts and sleds. The term is also used in geomorphology in describing a particular situation regarding rivers and streams. Basically, when a river, creek or even small stream changes its course sometimes this effect happens. Imagine any stream in our region meandering along. Often they flow curving one way then back another. Always another bend in the river if you're on a boat. Well sometimes the stream will cut through a more direct route  bypassing one of its meandering loops. The stream found a shorter more direct route to the ocean and thereby leaving its old stream bed, and sometimes trapped water forming lakes. This loop left behind is referred to by geologist as an oxbow.  From Google maps you can easily see the section cut off from the river to the right. Now driving down any road in the state sometimes you see these in smaller versions out in the pastures.They are quite common in most stream channels but mostly go unnoticed.
Turning to the right from the picture above about 45 degrees is this view up the old oxbow
     Now Frankfort, Kentucky is located on the Kentucky River and partially in an ancient oxbow. The Kentucky River actually flowed by the way of Holmes Street perhaps millions of years ago but because of some event the river cut through the mountain cutting off the section and continued its downward cutting and eroding. In the meantime the old river bed simply sit idle, probably a lake for a long time, then came swamps and finally today, still has water running from the surrounding run off but because of development the whole amazing event goes unnoticed.
On the northern side of the oxbow a stream channel still exists
     Today most of the old stream bed is gone no longer visible due to the development of the city of Frankfort. It was there at one time and in early pioneers times the low area actually had a beach area at the point of the connection of the two valleys.  Now across the Kentucky River  is the place where Benson Creek empties into river.
View from opposite end of oxbow valley in Frankfort

     In my story about Swift this oxbow actually plays an important role and it is based on historical documentation. At this geological oddity at Frankfort, in ancient times three streams all came together. If one imagines the old oxbow as an ancient stream valley on one side of the river and on the opposite of the river is Benson Creek flowing into the river that would in fact, be three streams coming together and in this rare instance would appear from the air above the shape of a giant turkey track! Now historically we know that James Harrod disappeared from Ft. Harrod while searching for the Swift mines near the three forks of the Kentucky River. Most searches take that to mean the three main forks of the Kentucky River at Beattyville Kentucky. And this is the most likely case. But with this very unusual geological oddity at Frankfort where three forks could come together, well, you'll just have to read the book for yourself.
Benson Creek in Frankfort, Ky
     One more point; Swift in his own journal says the richest mines are near where three streams come together. This just seemed like a great and most unusual part of the plot. Interestingly enough the area also falls with in the known latitude and longitude descriptions vaguely offered by Swift in his supposed journal. In my fictitious tale about the mines Benson Creek is a major  location destination for the main characters. This includes the modern treasure hunters as well as the historical figures that offer insights into events that created the modern day clues and situation. There is a real cliff and a highway route makes its way up the mountainside. I snapped a picture from the view looking down on Benson Valley from the approximate fictitious location of the mine. Oops, I am saying too much here and better leave the reading of the story to those of you interested.
    One of the most exciting aspects of writing Swift was the travel to unique places to help me with the story. All the landmarks throughout the novel are real places. Pilot Knob and all the other places are real places including this oxbow. I hope that you enjoy the blog posts and if you like historic fiction, especially about Kentucky, then why not get your own copy of my book Swift.

 Watch this blog site and my web site for more information about book signing events and special announcements.


  1. My brother Dean reminded me of the most famous Oxbow around is the Kentucky River at Jackson. When a new section of highway 15 was built the road cut through a narrow strip of land which was always referred to locally as the pan handle. When engineers cut the road the Ky river was also diverted thus leaving a section of the river trapped and formed what is still today the Pan Bowl Lake. This is a classic oxbow that has been formed by human intervention.


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