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Red River in Kentucky

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

We drove from Cincinnati to the Red River Gorge on a beautiful 80 degree sunny day. The drive took about 2 hours 45 minutes to the Beatyville exit near Pine Ridge on the east end of the Red River National Geological Park. We had 2 experienced kayakers including myself, one with minor experience, and my girlfriend who was on her first river kayaking experience. However, it was the first red river run for each of us so we didn't know what to expect other than the beauty we had all witnessed on many backpacking trips in the gorge.

We dropped our kayaks off at the highway 715 concrete bridge. The ramp is nice and has a handy circle drive and the put in is a rocky beach with easy access. The water level was at about 800 cfs and 4.5 feet on the Clay City measuring point. Upstream from the put in is the more intense whitewater red river run through clifty wilderness and was at below recommended running levels on American Whitewater.

We shuttled down to the blue steel bridge on highway 77 in the park and looked for a good take out but couldn't find one after driving further down the gravel road toward Indian Creek. We decided since it was alread after 2:00 and we were unfamiliar with the river length and time to run that we would just park at John Swift campground. This cost $10 to leave the car, but, in the end, it was an easy point to take out, easy to spot from the river, and was a big field for easy packing up afterward. The people there were nice and the length was a still a good day run.

The shuttle took us about 45 minutes to get back to the put in, but could be less depending on traffic and not searching around so long for a good free take out, which certainly exists somewhere.

The trip had some very minor whitewater class I and we didn't drag bottom at any point I can recall at this water level. I think ideally it would have been a foot higher, but the water had a nice pace even in the pool sections, many good stopping points for breaks and several large rocks with deep water below them for jumping off if you are so inclined.

We got wet at about 3:00 and were off the river by 6:45 with 3 short stops to jump off rocks and swim, look at tadpoles and wade in the rapids, and enjoy a pretty side stream.

Overall, it was a beautiful day and everyone enjoyed the trip and the scenery. It wasn't a hair-raising whitewater experience, but perfect for an easy 8 mile cruise with children or inexperienced kayakers at that water level.


the put in is a gravel road mildly steep down to a nice circle unloading area and the rocky beach is perfect for launching. The takeout at the campground was an easy rocky beach and gentle walk up to the field.


$10 to park a vehicle at John Swift campground.


From Cincinnati:

I-75 to I-64 to Mountain Parkway past Winchester. Take the Beatyville exit past Natural Bridge exit and take a right. Watch for 715 and take a right. 715 crosses the concrete bridge and the ramp is on the left just after with a circle gravel parking across the street. The take out is downstream just after 715 meets 77 at the blue steel bridge or before it for the campground.


I used a Red River Gorge trail map to locate everything almost.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location