Boating, Canoeing and Kayaking
Within the boundaries of Mammoth Cave National Park, 25 miles of the Green River and six miles of the Nolin River carry boaters past dramatic bluffs, majestic trees, and wildlife. The Green River, dotted with sandbars, islands, and subsurface springs, averages 200 feet wide and 10 feet deep, though its depth may be much greater in places. The Nolin River also averages about 10 feet deep, but its channel is narrower than the Green River.
At normal water levels, the Green River runs at about five miles per hour. The current in the Nolin is slightly slower than the current in the Green. Therefore, both rivers offer pleasant canoeing, even for novices. When the rivers flood, the current can be very swift, but no whitewater conditions exist along the Green or Nolin Rivers in the park. Regardless of water level, always be alert to hazards such as submerged trees and rocks, drifting debris, and the two ferries that carry vehicles and passengers across the Green River.
Launching watercraft is strongly discouraged when river levels are at or exceed 10 feet on the park's water level gauges. Strong, swiftly moving currents as well as large drift flowing in the river channel pose a hazard to safety. Canoe liveries with permits to operate in the park are prohibited from renting or providing canoes during these times. To inquire on current river levels please call 270.758.2417.
To explore the Green River, launch your craft at Dennison Ferry Day-Use Area, Green River Ferry, or Houchins Ferry. On the Nolin River, launch your boat just below Nolin River Dam at Tailwaters Recreation Area, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When you reach the Green River, paddle upstream against a gentle current and take out at Houchins Ferry.
For a longer trip, you can put in upstream outside the park at Munfordville and float 19 miles to take out at Dennison Ferry Day-Use Area. Note, however, that much of that length lies outside the park and camping may not be permitted on the private properties along the river before you reach the Park. Also, you will need a Kentucky fishing license to fish until you reach the Park boundary.
The access at Dennison Ferry is steep and therefore suitable for small johnboats and canoes only. Take-out points are at Dennison Ferry Day-Use Area, Green River Ferry or Houchins Ferry. We do not recommend that you continue padding downstream past Houchins Ferry to Lock & Dam #6. Located outside the park, the approach to the dam is not marked with warning signs. Being sucked into the current above the dam could be extremely hazardous.
Did You Know?
The grease-oil lamp was used to illuminate Mammoth Cave for more than a century. Designed after New England whale-oil lanterns, these lamps used cooking grease to light the way.