Riverside Camping in Mammoth Cave National Park

A tent by the Green River at Houchin Ferry Campground

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In Mammoth Cave National Park, you can camp on a river island, rough it on the floodplain, or find a spot with a river view at Houchin Ferry Camgound.

Camping along the floodplain or river islands is by permit only. With a Backcountry Use Permit, you can camp on riverbanks and islands along the Green and Nolin Rivers. Be sure to camp at least ½ mile away from Green River Ferry, Houchin Ferry Campground, and Dennison Ferry Day-Use Area. Backcountry Use Permits for riverbank or island camping are non-reservable and are obtained at the Mammoth Cave Campground along with a copy of the camping rules and regulations. Remember that if putting in upstream at Munfordville, riverbank or island camping may not be permitted on private lands outside the park. Your Backcountry Use Permit is only valid within Mammoth Cave National Park. For a backcountry map click the following link: Backcountry Map & Guide.  

Backcountry Use Permits for riverbank and island camping are free. All other Backcountry Use Permits for backcountry campsites are one time, non-refundable $10 fee and may be obtained in person at the Mammoth Cave Campground or reserved online by clicking here. Further information related to backcountry campsites can be found here.

When setting up your campsite on islands or on the riverbank, remember that sudden rainstorms can cause rapid flooding. Know the weather forecast so you can anticipate weather-related problems. To hear the National Weather Service forecast in the area, tune your radio to AM 530. The park will not issue Backcountry Use Permits for riverside camping when the Green River level is 20 feet or greater. To check the current river level, please click here.

River levels and current fluctuate dramatically, particularly during the winter months, and snags or sandbars may be hidden underwater. Observe weather conditions. Flooding is possible. In case of storms, leave the water and seek shelter.

A number of regulations apply when you camp in the park. Please read the following Backcountry Camping Rules and Regulations before camping, and obtain a copy for your trip at the Mammoth Cave Campground when registering.



It is the responsibility of all trip participants to know and obey all park regulations. You are responsible for compliance. Violators are subject to fines.

  • Overnight camping is permitted at designated campsites, islands, and along floodplains at least ½ mile away from the ferry crossings or developed campgrounds, and within 100 feet of the river. Stay on designated trails. No river floodplain or island camping is permitted south of Boardcut Island.
  • Personal floatation devices MUST BE WORN by all persons at all times on all areas of Green River and Nolin River.
  • Maximum group size is limited to 8 people per campsite, and no more than two tents.
  • Camping may not exceed 14 consecutive days.
  • Pets are permitted, but must be on a leash and under physical restraint at all times. Do not leave pets unattended.
  • All wildlife in the park is protected. Feeding, harassing, hunting or trapping wildlife is prohibited.
  • Firearms may be carried in accordance with Title 36 CFR 2.4 and Kentucky law.
  • All plants in Mammoth Cave National Park are protected. Collecting or digging plants is strictly prohibited in the park.
  • Possessing, destroying, removing, digging, or disturbing archeological resources is prohibited.
  • Entering any cave within the park without a permit is prohibited.
  • Motor vehicles, including ATVs and motorcycles, are prohibited on trails. Bicycling is allowed only on designated trails.

Leave No Trace of Your Visit…

  • Fires are permitted in designated campsites only. Keep fires small, and build fires only in established metal fire rings. When camping on the floodplain or on river islands, you may start a fire in any safe location. Use only dead wood that is down. Never leave a fire unattended and be sure the fire is completely out before leaving the area.
  • Dispose of human waste at least 3” deep.
  • Dispose of wash water at least 100 feet away from water source, trails, and campsites.
  • Carry all trash out of the backcountry and properly dispose of it. “Pack it in: Pack it out.” NEVER bury trash.
  • Store food so wildlife cannot access it.

For Your Safety:

  • Leave your itinerary and float plan with someone.
  • When leaving your car, always lock the doors and store all items out of site.
  • Carry a map or guide, a compass, and know where you are.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Take a first aid kit, flashlight, matches and appropriate clothing for inclement weather possibilities.
  • There are two venomous species of snakes in the park - the western diamondback rattlesnake, and the copperhead. Use caution on trails and at night. Killing snakes is prohibited.
  • All campsites except McCoy Hollow have a spring, stream or river nearby. For your safety, boil and treat water before drinking or carry your own drinking water. All water from natural sources found in the park must be treated.
  • Use insect repellent and check carefully for ticks. Ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease.



Learn and Explore

More On The Rivers

Finding your way along the Green and Nolin Rivers in Mammoth Cave National Park is a lot easier if you follow these links.

Last updated: June 11, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 7
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007


(270) 758-2180

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