Canoeing & kayaking
Laurel County is in the midst of Kentucky's best paddling area. Our canoeing and kayaking opportunities range from quiet flat-water streams and lakes to some of Kentucky's best Class III and IV white-water. Take a look below at some of the paddling opportunities we have to offer.
The Rockcastle River originates in Laurel County and forms the northern and western border of the county. The River is one of Kentucky's most popular rivers. The Rockcastle offers something for every type of paddler, from Class I canoe camping to challenging Class III-IV whitewater. The scenery is appealing in this part of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Upper Rockcastle River, Livingston to KY Hwy 1956
Description: This section of the Rockcastle is usually runnable from late fall to mid-summer. This part of the river is very scenic. This is a Class I+ pool and riffle stream. This has been a favorite for canoe campers for decades. River access points are:
- Beside the US 25 bridge at the Laurel/Rockcastle Co line
- Under the I-75 Bridge
- Just downstream from the KY Hwy 1956 Bridge (Rockcastle Adventures)
The river distance from Livingston to the I-75 Bridge is about 6 miles. From the I-75 bridge to Hwy 1956 is about 11 miles. Paddling is best when water flow rates are between 100 cfs and 1500 cfs. Flow rates can be checked on the internet at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ky/nwis/uv?site_no=03406500.
Lower Rockcastle River, KY Hwy 1956 to Lake Cumberland
The lower Rockcastle River is a protected river due to its inclusion in the Kentucky Wild and Scenic River program. The Narrows and Beech Narrows section is one of Kentucky's most popular whitewater kayak runs. The scenery is fantastic. You will be surrounded by tall, forested hills which will eventually give way to high rock bluffs further downstream. House sized boulders are found along the streambanks and within the stream. Paddling the lower Rockcastle is interesting and challenging. The river distances are:
- KY Hwy 1956 to KY Hwy 80, about 4 miles
- KY Hwy 80 to Bee Rock Campground, about 17 miles
- Bee Rock Campground, to Rockcastle Campground and Lake Cumberland, about 7 miles.
From KY Hwy 1956, River description and Class:
- First 6 miles, essentially Class I with a fair current and numerous riffles and small ledges.
- Next 6 miles, the river begins to pick up gradient with several Class II rapids.
- At about mile 12 the Rockcastle tumbles down a Class II or Class III series of ledges and standing waves known as the Stair-steps.
- After the Stair-steps, the Rockcastle reverts to long pools with Class II rapids at the end of the pools.
- At about 15 miles below KY Hwy 1956 the paddler will come to the most challenging and dangerous rapid on the river. This 4-foot drop is known as the Beech Narrows. Below the Beech Narrows is a "keeper" hydraulic. This rapid is best portaged around by inexperienced paddlers and by all at some water levels. The portage trail will be on your left. The Beech Narrows is a solid Class IV rapid.
- About 3/4 mile below the Beech Narrows the paddler will encounter the Lower Narrows. The Lower Narrows are a 3/4 mile stretch of almost continuous, highly technical Class III and Class IV rapids.
- At about 21 miles downstream from KY Hwy 1956 you will reach Bee Rock Campground in the Daniel Boone National Forest. From this point to Rockcastle Campground, also in the Daniel Boone National Forest, the river once again becomes a quiet Class I flat-water stream.
River access points along the lower Rockcastle are limited. Access points include:
- Just downstream from KY Hwy 1956. (Rockcastle Adventures)
- Under KY Hwy 80.
- Howard Place (Daniel Boone National Forest)
- Bee Rock Campground (Daniel Boone National Forest)
- Rockcastle Campground (Daniel Boone National Forest)
Laurel River Lake
Laurel River Lake has 5,600 acres of water surface and over 200 miles of tree-lined shore. Located amid the pristine beauty of the Daniel Boone National Forest, Laurel River Lake is a favorite destination for hundreds of paddlers each year. The lake has secluded coves and cliff-lined shores that offer relaxation and quiet reflection. We feel that Laurel River Lake is Kentucky's premier paddling lake. The natural beauty of the crystal clear lake lies safely protected in the National Forest. The water is pristine and the fishing is great! As a matter of fact, the state record smallmouth bass was hooked in Laurel River Lake. The lake is one of the deepest and cleanest lakes in Kentucky. The scenery on Laurel River Lake is fantastic.
The quiet bays and backwaters of the lake are excellent locations for wildlife viewing. The lake has a resident population of giant Canadian Geese, and is home to wintering Bald Eagles. It is also possible to glimpse the native wildlife including deer and wild turkey, which frequent the shore line.
Laurel River Lake lends itself to canoe camping. There are two secluded paddle-in campgrounds with running water, developed tent sites and toilets. There are also two full service campgrounds. For large groups, a secluded group camp ground is also located on the lake. All campgrounds are operated by the US Forest Service.
Paddling opportunities are accessed by seven launch ramps located conveniently around the lake. The lake also contains two full service marinas.
Phone: 606-878-6900 Toll Free: 800-348-0095
- Holly Bay Marina & Campground
Canoe campers can stock up on groceries, fishing and camping supplies at the full service Holly Bay Marina. Canoe campers can even get a hot meal at the marina grill. Holly Bay is open year-round. The Marina is handicapped accessible.
- Grove Marina
If you are paddling or camping on the southern side of the lake you can get groceries, fishing and camping supplies at the Grove Marina. Grove also has a grill that serves hot meals.
Wood Creek Lake
The 625-acre Wood Creek Lake is great for canoe and kayak paddlers. The Lake has one public boat ramp where paddlers can launch their canoes and kayaks. Parts of the long and narrow lake have more of a flat-water river feel than a lake. Wood Creek Lake has two main forks, Wood Creek and Gillis Branch.
Largemouth bass, pan fish, catfish and rainbow trout fishing is excellent in Wood Creek Lake. As a matter of fact, Wood Creek is home to the Kentucky state record largemouth. The record breaking fish weighed over 13 pounds.
To get to Woods Creek Lake from I-75 paddlers should take exit 41. Go west on KY Hwy 80 about 7 miles, turn right and go past Ott's Grocery and bear right at the forks. The road ends at the boat dock.
Laurel River, Below the Dam
EXPERIENCED WHITE-WATER PADDLERS ONLY
Spectacular scenery, great rapids but tough to catch in its entirety at runnable levels characterizes this 2 mile section of the Laurel River. Releases can provide about 2 miles of fun rapids in very cold water. Even at the height of the summer, paddlers will want to take along their cold weather boating gear since the release water flows from the bottom of Laurel Lake and is "ice cream headache" cold. When Lake Cumberland is at "summer pool" levels, a summertime run on the Laurel could mean that the final (and only class IV) rapid China Hole will be covered under the lake's water. When Lake Cumberland water levels are low, even some experienced white-water paddlers consider this rapid a major challenge.
- Difficulty: Class III and IV
- Put-in: just below the Laurel Lake Dam, off KY1193.
- Takeout: confluence with the Cumberland River and Lake Cumberland.
- Shuttle: Follow KY1193 south across the Laurel River Dam and then go right on KY1277 and follow till it dead ends at the confluence of Laurel River and Lake Cumberland
Cumberland River, Below Cumberland Falls
This is the whitewater section of the Upper Cumberland River. The run from Cumberland Falls to the Mouth of the Laurel River Boat ramp is about 10 miles. Lake Cumberland covers the last few rapids in this section during its summer pool, making the late summer/early fall season as they draw down for winter pool the optimal time to run the river. Levels vary, but 705 feet and lower on Lake Cumberland make for all the rapids to be in. This normally coincides with mid-August to September.
- Usual Difficulty: Class III+ (IV) at normal flows
- Length: 10.5 miles
- Average Gradient: 11 feet per mile
- Put in: The put in is right below Cumberland Falls. Park at the Falls parking lot and walk between the two buildings and veer right to find the upper most cobblestone path and follow it all the way down to the sandy beach. From interstate 75 exit 25 in Corbin take 25W west approximately 10 miles to highway 90 and follow the signs another 6 miles to Cumberland Falls State Park.
A more detailed description of each of the rapids along this run can be found atwww.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/656.
Find boating and canoeing hot spots around Laurel County
Laurel river lake
Holly bay marina
Mike's Hike and Bike
Mike's Hike and Bike is a full service paddling, cycling and outdoor store located on Main Street in London. Mike's carries a full line of flat-water and white water kayaks, camping supplies, outdoor gear and bicycles.
Holly Bay Marina & Campground
Houseboat Rentals, Pontoon Rentals, Fishing Boat Rentals, Boat Slip Rentals, Grocery / Deli, Full Service Marina, Camping / Fishing / Boating Supplies, Fully Equipped Campground, Year-Round / 24 Hour Security, Six-Boat Gas Dock, Safe Convenient Parking. Holly Bay Marina is handicapped accessible.
Slip rentals for houseboats, pontoons and fishing boats. Grocery/Deli, full service marina, campground, fishing, boating, gas dock and convenient parking.