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Rockcastle River in Kentucky

Trip Overview

Our Canoe trip started just below the KY 490 bridge in Livingston Kentucky. Before starting on your trip stop by the Rockcastle River Trading Company at the Rockcastle River Bridge on US 25. The Carloftis family has been the operators of this business since the 1950's. They are super nice about allowing you to park your vehicle on their property. Buzz Carloftis is the County Judge of Rockcastle County.

The first 4 miles of the trip the river runs adjacent to the main line of the C&X railroad. A train will come by about every 30 minutes. The trains will be about 200 feet away and are not very noisy. At about the 2-mile point we stopped and cooked chicken wings with homemade cook stoves made out of coffee cans. There is a medium sized rock that juts out into the water that served nicely as a picnic spot. The first 4 miles we only had to portage once. This was due to a large sycamore tree that had fallen across the river. At the 4-mile point we floated by the scenic Rockcastle River Trading Co. and under the US 25 bridge. There is also a dirt road that comes down to the river under the 25 bridge. This road can serve as a put-in and take-out point.

At about the 6-mile point the river passes under the I-75 Bridge. This was the last sign of civilization we would see for the next 6 hours. From the I-75 Bridge downstream the river is one of the most scenic and wild areas to be found in this part of Kentucky. This part of the river is deep within the Daniel Boone National Forest. The water quality is very clean. You can actually see pebbles and muscles on the river bottom in 8 feet of water. There are many sandbars and gravel bars that are perfect for picnics and/or camping. On our trip we saw deer, a flock of wild turkeys and even a mink.

If you like to fish you can catch about all the smallmouth bass you can handle. However, most are smaller than keeper size but fun to catch all the same. Try Roostertails for bait.

The part of the river between the I-75 Bridge and our takeout at the "Old" KY 80 bridge has several areas where you will have to pull your canoe during periods of low water. The Rockcastle River is best run when the flow-rate is above 75 cubic feet per second. You can find the flow-rate at any time by going to the web site below.


Our takeout point was the old 80 bridge. There is a dirt road that goes right to the water's edge. However, don't drive down this road without 4-wheel drive. It's only about a 200-foot portage to carry your equipment to the old highway above.

Non-expert paddlers should by all means take out here or the new KY 80 bridge a few miles downstream. The new 80 bridge will give you a few more miles on the water but it's a hard climb getting your equipment up to the highway.

The part of the Rockcastle River below the new 80 bridge is highly technical. Even experts take a chance on serious injury or even death on this part of the river. Its about 17 miles from this point to Lake Cumberland at the Bee Rock Campground. Good luck.

Overall the upper Rockcastle is a very scenic, clean and gentle river. If you would like some company drop an email. I'm looking for an excuse to go again.


Several small motels in London and Mount Vernon.


From the south take the Livingston exit on I-75. Go north on 6 miles on US 25 to Livingston. From the North take the Mount Vernon- Livingston exit on I-75. Go south on US-25 about 12 miles to Livingston.


Go to "www.topozone.com" for an online topo map.

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

Locations on this Trip