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Green River/Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky - Weekend Trip Report

Trip Overview

My two brothers and I spent two days on the Green River in Mammoth Cave National Park. It was very enjoyable with few surprises.

We hired Green River Canoeing to shuttle us to the put-in and from the take out. We used my 17 foot Old Town canoe and 12 foot Old Town kayak to paddle the 20 miles over two days. The put-in is Dennison Ferry and take-out for us was Houchin Ferry.

Outside of the park:
Be prepared for the visual blight and commercial glut of tacky tourist shops that stretch from the highway right to the park border. It is depressing but I'm not sure it can be avoided.

Inside the park:
You will need a backcountry camping permit, available for free from your outfitter or park office.

On the water:
The first ten miles you will encounter flow and flat water. The second ten miles are all flat, no flow due to backup from a downstream dam. Camp sites are few. Grab one early. The only suitable spots are on islands. Both sides of the river are too steep for camping. Weekends are crowded but most people are not camping.

What to look for:
Beautiful scenery all around. There is a cave you can paddle into river left just below the put-in. An off-the-water highlight is the sandy cave river left just after the Green River Ferry.

Cautions:
Suitable for kids but miles of flat water paddling can be tedious. The put-in is very steep...with irregular steps and almost no room to maneuver once you get down to the water. The park service can do better. Maps show river mile markers, although many signs are missing from the river.

Observations:
• The park appeared clean.
• Roads need work.
• Facilities adequate.
• Cell service limited... best near the Green River Ferry and at Houchin.

I would recommend this trip for anyone interested in an overnighter... if they are up for a lot of flat water paddling.

Have fun! This is a unique 20 mile stretch of wilderness with no roads or bridges. My brothers and I had a blast.

Outfitting:

17 foot Old Town canoe

12 foot Old Town kayak

Fees:

Free backcountry camping permit available from the outfitter or park office.

Directions:

Just off I-65 south of Louisville

Launches:

Dennison Ferry

Houchin Ferry

Contact:

Outfitter: Green River Canoeing

Resources:

Book: "Canoeing in Kentucky"

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip

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