Kentucky, which is known for its horses and bourbon, as well as fried chicken, is a great destination for kayakers who are looking for a new place to paddle. Kentucky is bordered on three sides by rivers and has some of the most beautiful recreational waterways in America. It offers everything you need, from flat, calm water to Class V rapids. This makes it a great place for multi-day kayaking or camping trips that will allow you to really enjoy the stunning waters and beautiful landscapes of this amazing US state.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular spots in Kentucky to help you plan your next kayaking trip. Here are the top places to kayak in Kentucky.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the longest cave system in the world. You can also paddle into some caves and the Green River runs through the park.
This geological phenomenon is open to kayak exploration. Expect to find wide, gently flowing waters and occasional Class I rapids.
Three kayak launch points are available in the park. These can be used to make short day trips very easy. Dennison Ferry is the first park put in. Here you can paddle through caves and along the river.
You can find takeaway food seven miles from the stop. You can also continue on to Houchin Ferry which is 12 miles away from Green River Ferry.
Near Cave City, you can rent kayaks.
Harrods Creek – Kentucky
The Harrods Creek runs miles and miles. It offers thrill-seekers an enormous pool, forests, marinas rapids, small streams, and a waterfall.
It is one of the most beautiful spots for kayaking in Kentucky. Enjoy stunning views and diverse wildlife as you paddle down flat waters near Louisville.
Harrods Creek may be accessed via Captain’s Quarters (Harrods Creek Park), Cox Park, or Party Cove.
The pool is several miles long. A slight rapid will be visible at the end. Here, your kayak can be carried to the Great Blue Heron mystery. You will see plenty of wildlife here, including herons.
A steep stream runs to the waterfall on the right just below the rapid. Unfortunately, the waterfall is not accessible to the public.
The Kentucky River
The Kentucky River, a historic tributary to the Ohio River running through the middle and length of Kentucky, is the first. For hundreds of years, the Kentucky River was an important trade route. It is used to transport lots and tons of goods throughout KY.
It is home to many great kayaking spots. It is ideal for kayaking beginners or those just starting out in kayaking.
The Kentucky River Palisades is the first thing on your list. These are stunning gorges lined with limestone cliffs stretching for more than 100 miles. Every section offers a variety of breathtaking views, caves, and creeks as well as springs and streams that will keep you coming back for more.
If you are more interested in history, we recommend going to Lexington. Fort Boonesborough State Park offers easy access to the historic Fort of Daniel Boone, as well as many spots for camping, birding, and kayaking on the historic Kentucky River.
The Green River – Kentucky
The Green River, a tributary of the Ohio River that runs 380 miles long, is located in central Ohio. The river was named for an American war of independence general with the same name. Coincidentally, the river’s waters are also green.
The Green River has a great cultural and historic significance for the people of Kentucky.
It is home to a diverse ecosystem that includes fish, shrimps, and mussels as well as wildlife like deer, foxes, otters, and bobcats. There are also turkeys, bald, and hawks.
The 300 Springs Waterfall is another great spot. The springs burst out of limestone crags and then flow down the cliffs in an amazing way.
Red River Gorge – Kentucky
Kayaking through the Red River Gorge may offer breathtaking views and natural rock formations. The Daniel Boone National Forest is home to an impressive variety of wildlife.
There are many take-outs or put-ins that can be used depending on the distance you paddle. There are also rapids to be aware of. The whitewater is mostly Class 1, with some sections being Class II and 3. The lower section is classified I.
Copperas Creek can offer a good launch location for beginners. There is mostly Class I rapids.
Red River is a Wild and Scenic River. A section of it has been designated as a Kentucky Wild River. There are several outfitters who offer tours within the National Forest.
A place called Thrillsville Adventure Park has located nearby the Red River Gorge cabins and campgrounds, where you can venture into the cave and go underground by kayak or cave boat. There is something unique and unforgettable about this cave, which is a flooded limestone quarry.
Paddling on flatwater here is perfect for newcomers to the sport, as well as for those with families.
With 74 miles of shoreline, the lake is a great location to explore, with plenty of sandstone canyons, as well as gently sloping shorelines to explore. Kayaks and canoes can be rented if you don’t have one as well as fishing boats if you want to go fishing. Kayak Fishing licenses can be obtained at the ticket office of the campground.
In Grayson Lake State Park, you can hike the 8-mile Beech Hemlock Forest Trail and camp for several days if you wish. Golf Digest rated it as the fourth-best golf course in the U.S., so you definitely have to check out the golf course if that’s your thing.
Just minutes from Louisville lies Floyd’s Fork Creek, a scenic 60-mile stretch connecting four parks. This area offers incredible wildlife sightings and natural landscapes. It is also the most pristine watershed Jefferson County has.
There are seven access points that offer a variety of launch options. The creek is open all year, with varying water levels. After heavy rain, the water level can rise to Class II rapids. The creek can be impassible in dry seasons. It is a good idea, therefore, to make sure you check the water level before you go.
If you are new to whitewater paddling and need to learn how to paddle in rapids, Elkhorn Creek is the place to go. It’s located in central Kentucky. The shape of the creek is similar to Elkhorns.
There are approximately 17 miles of trails that can be paddled along by different levels. They are all suitable for beginners as well as those who don’t want to do strenuous paddling.
A good place to launch is just east of Frankfort, near Elkhorn Bridge. Head downstream from there to find many friendly whitewater rapids, which are great for beginners. Portaging around the Jim Beam Distillery dam will be required.
If you are a more experienced paddler, then head down to The Palisades, an 8-mile section of the river with some more challenging class III and IV rapids.
The Rockcastle River runs 55 miles from Jackson County to its confluence with the Cumberland River. It is home to 7 rapids of class II-IV and numerous walleyes, which attract both anglers and thrill-seekers.
The Beech Creek Narrows section is the best section for kayaking on the river. As the river narrows, meanders through huge boulders and drops, expect to encounter Class more than 3. It’s easy for people to get stuck here.
The Lower Narrows also has a lot of aggressive water. The river twists and turns here many times before dropping dramatically. This trail is not recommended for the faint of heart. You’ll need paddling skills.
The river flows peacefully after the Lower Narrows. There are occasional Class II-III rapids before it meets the lake. These 7-miles of flatwater are open to beginners. They can paddle the river and try their luck at catching smallmouth basses.
Cumberland River – Kentucky
The Cumberland River flows 688 miles through Kentucky, Tennessee. There are several locations where you can launch a kayak. Cumberland Falls is one spot. If you have previous experience, whitewater kayaking can be done below the falls.
You can also paddle through the hills and forests with lots of wildlife to get a slower pace.
The river below the falls offers Class III-IV rapids, with amazing names such as Last Drop, Screaming Right, and Stairsteps. You can rent a kayak, book tours, or hire a shuttle to take you on your Cumberland kayaking adventure year-round.
Ohio River and Falls
The Ohio River stretches almost 1000 miles, starting in Pennsylvania and flowing through West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, West Virginia, before joining the Mississippi in Illinois.
The river is very slow and travels at.5 mph in the summer, making it easy for beginners. The Falls of Ohio is one spot we recommend. Although it is technically located on the Indiana side of the state, the wildlife conservation area and state park are well worth a visit. They are also easily accessible from Kentucky.
This trip affords unrivaled views of Louisville’s skyline and bridges, making it a great way to appreciate and see the city. Kayakers who are ambitious can even spend a few days kayaking from Louisville to Cincinnati and camping in the many natural areas.
The narrow run of Grassy Creek, which is a Class IV+ whitewater course, is not recommended for beginners. The waters are challenging enough for advanced kayakers, but they will be fun for beginners.
The creek flows into the Russel Fork. You can launch your kayak from Gateway Motel, and then paddle the steep trail to Russel Fork. It’s a 1.94-mile trail that is both challenging and enjoyable.
Wildlife viewing, fishing, and photography are some of the activities available at the lake. Bluegills and smallmouth bass are just a few of the fish found in the lake.
Get out your kayak fishing gear, and get to work. There are numerous campgrounds for campers. It’s worth it for the beautiful Pike County and its gracefully flowing waterways.
Summing up Kayaking in Kentucky
Kentucky is a paradise for kayakers. It offers calm, relaxing paddling in still waters, thrilling trips down Class IV or V rapids, as well as everything in between. This area is a great place to kayak fish and offers cave kayaking opportunities.
It is a great place to go on multi-day camping and kayaking trips. There are many treks and tours that can be adapted for your wild side. Kentucky is a great place for kayakers with all abilities and interests to explore, learn and grow.
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