A story recently went viral about an abandoned ship in a creek off the Ohio River and I needed to see it. And after some research, I found it. The ship went through several names but its most famous were USS Phenakite and Circle Line V.
It’s at the Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky border. You launch at Tanners Creek in Indiana, cross the Ohio River, and paddle up to Taylor Creek in Kentucky. The map tab at the top can show you the location but here is a close up.
There is an actual boat launch off Tanners Creek Dr so there isn’t anything shady about this adventure! Although we got a lot of looks from people as we put in our kayaks. Most people were in fishing and motor boats. We were the only kayakers I saw that day.
Tanners Creek is nice and mellow and it was an easy paddle to the Ohio River. We made a left turn onto the Ohio River and started paddling up it.
The Ohio River was actually quite peaceful. It wasn’t a hard paddle because we had a really nice day and there weren’t a lot of boats out. We paddled up and, before we reached the power plant, we went to the other side of the river into Kentucky.
There was a shockingly convenient red flag on the other side of the river that we shot for. It also helped us know when to cross the river on the way back.
We paddled. And paddled. And paddled some more. Every time I thought we found the opening of the creek, it was just a little dent in the land. After a while, I started to measure the map we had brought just to make sure the 1/4 inch wasn’t actually 20 miles or something. But no, it should have been really short, less than a mile. And I knew we hadn’t passed it because we hadn’t passed any kind of turn off.
We saw a bridge up ahead and it wasn’t on my map so I knew it had to be before that. I was starting to get worried. I kept telling my parents it should be right around the next bend…and then then next…and then the next.
Then, there it was. I thought it was just another dent in the land like before. The creek entrance was so tiny and set back that you couldn’t see it until you were right next to it.
Kayaking up Taylor Creek, it suddenly became clear why no one found the ship earlier. It was TINY. No motorized boat would be able to get in there without getting stuck.
The ship looked kind of small from the front and I was a little disappointed.
Then we went around back and we could see the full scale of this thing. It was tall!
We ran our boats up in the back. We sank up to our ankles in thick mud. The area behind the boat was very small but it looked like it was less muddy so that was our reasoning for parking our boats there. Well, it wasn’t any less muddy and we had trouble maneuvering around our boats and each other in such a small space. I’d recommend the front next time.
I started walking along the side of the boat. Again, big mistake. I like getting muddy and all but this was a little out of hand. It was so thick that it sucked my boat shoes off so I had to carry them. I heard my mom yell that she found a better way so I went back. Next to where we pulled up, there was a little makeshift path that went through the woods and circled back to the boat. Much easier.
Someone had conveniently put fallen trees and tied a rope to help others get up. Without it, there is no way we would have been able to get into the boat. There may have been a way from the water because it was tilted down but then what do you do with the boats?
A lack of planning on our part was happily thought of by others. Thank you whoever put the trees and rope up.
There were so many plants. Nature never ceases to amaze me. The “floor” was packed mud and there was a skinny trail through the plants, stomped down by previous explorers. I still wasn’t wearing shoes because the mud had made my feet two sizes too big but I didn’t run into anything dangerous.
There were a lot of hatches to explore but most were filled with water so we couldn’t go down very far because I was not about to get into mystery water. Mystery water is usually full of piranhas or creatures from the black lagoon. I’ve seen enough movies to know not to stick my toes in there.
The engine room was rusted out and filled in with water. I wish I knew more about ship engines because there was a lot of stuff in there but we had no idea what we were looking at.
I found the downstairs! It was filled with water but I wanted to see inside so I started going down the steps. Note to self: look to see if there are actually steps. It only had the first rung and then nothing.
I got as far down as I could and then dangled my camera and took a bunch of pictures. It looks like a series of open rooms, but again, filled with water.
On such a small ship there was actually a lot to explore because you never knew what the plants were hiding. I basically ran into a set of steps going up to the roof because of the plant cover.
There were also a lot of hatches. Sadly I have no idea what was in most of them because they were filled with water. I don’t know how deep sea explorers do it. I was creeped out by a few feet of murky water. I couldn’t imagine strapping on a suit and going hundreds of feet down into it. Kudos.
We went a little further into the creek but it got super shallow and there wasn’t anything really cool so we turned back. The trip back was MUCH nicer because we were going with the current this time. I also didn’t realize how warm the water was. I’m sure it had to do with the power plant but man, it was nice. I spent the entire ride back washing my feet and it didn’t suck.
On the way there I had seen a sad playground so we stopped on the way back to check it out. I followed a road up and it brought me to the back of a field. I think it was private property (oops) and it was like a river getaway area.
We also saw a pack of 4 dogs on the beach. They seemed nice but they wouldn’t come to us and ended up trotting off. One was obviously not fixed and another was limping slightly. I called the Kentucky SPCA when we got home and told them what we saw. No one got back to me so I hope it all turned out okay.
Besides dogs, there were a lot of herons along the creek on the way back. Must have been dinner time.
The USS Phenakite/Circle Line V has quite a history. Look it up and you’ll see it was used by the military and tour boat companies and even put in music videos. A lot of times you can feel the history of something old but I didn’t really have that experience with this ship. It wasn’t majestic or awe-inspiring. It seemed…tired. The ship had been through so much and now it was retired, resting on the side of a small creek, tending to its garden and greeting the occasional passerby.
I’d like to go there, maybe as an extension of a Great Miami River multi-day canoe trip. I see this is on Taylor Creek. Is that accessible from up-river on that creek?
That map is deceiving. Taylor Creek turns into a dribble of water that you can’t even kayak. So I’d say no on being able to go from upriver. There was a footpath along the side of the ship but I think it’s on private property. Hope that helps!
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Thank you. Probably the best plan is to approach from the Ohio, then. How was the current there?
The current wasn’t that bad at all. I don’t have super great upper body strength and it wasn’t too bad for me. The ride back was definitely easier, though.
Thanks. I know the feeling, kind of like paddling through oatmeal going upstream.
Do you know what the total approximate distance was from the boat launch to the ship? Have you been back to the ship since this trip? Great photos!
Melanie, if I had to guess, I would say about a mile and half from boat launch to ship. I haven’t been back there so I’m not sure if it’s still there…but honestly, how would you move that thing?! It’s sunk in the mud!