Canoeing and kayaking in Kentucky is a treat no matter where you go. Whether you’re into kayak fishing, touring or laidback recreational paddling, with so many miles of river Kentucky has options to keep you exploring for a lifetime. If you’re visiting and don’t quite have that much time to enjoy, here are a few of the best places to kayak and canoe in Kentucky.


 

Best Canoeing and Kayaking in Kentucky

Louisville

Louisville is a unique place for paddling. The Ohio River is centrally located and has an amazing array of shorter day trip opportunities for paddlers of all experience levels. There are also many other worthwhile paddling destinations within a short drive from the city.

Parklands is an interesting canoeing/kayaking spot to check out in Louisville. It has four parks, all of which are connected by one central trail. Parklands is also home to the 60-mile-long Floyds Fork Creek.

Nolin River is another great option to explore if you have time for a bit longer drive from Louisville; the put-in spot is about an hour from downtown. The river provides views of unique rock formations, and a good blend of relaxing float time and gentle rapids to keep things from getting too slow.

Louisville Tours and Rentals

Nachand Canoe & Kayak

Half-day rentals for single or double kayaks, or three-person canoes are $35 to $55. Full-day rentals are $60 to $95.

Phone: 502-753-9271
Website: www.nachandkayaks.com

Blue Moon Canoe & Kayak

Half- and full-day rentals for canoes and kayaks are $55 to $75. This includes the shuttle to and from the put-in and take-out points. $7 for shuttle service only.

Phone: 502-753-9942
Website: www.bluemooncanoeky.com

Louisville Kayak Company

Centrally located in Louisville. Tour packages and day rentals.

Website: www.louisvillekayakcompany.com

Bowling Green

Drakes Creek is a popular area to kayak and canoe if you’re near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Tourism Kentucky has a useful website with information on paddling Drakes. This is a great area for a day trip—just be ready to disconnect for the day, because there are many spots on Drakes Creek that have poor cell reception.

Visit Bowling Green is an online resource for some of the best kayaking and canoeing areas in Kentucky, and includes information on Warren County Blueways, a picturesque spot for paddlers and anglers.

Bowling Green Tours and Rentals

Drakes Creek Canoe

Seasonal rentals and shuttle service.

Website: www.drakescreekcanoe.com

Lincoln Trail Outfitters

Recreational kayaks for $40 to $60 for half- and full-day rentals. Fishing kayaks for $60 to 80.

Phone: 270-246-5501
Website: www.lincolntrailoutfitters.com

Shanty Hollow Rentals

Seasonal. $40 to $60 per day with launch drop-off and pick-up included.

Phone: 270-392-9981
Website: www.facebook.com/pg/shantyhollowrentals1

Lexington

Canoeing and kayaking near Kentucky’s second-largest city is by no means second rate. From pastoral river scenes to lush state parks, the Lexington area has plenty of great put-ins to explore.

Lexington Tours and Rentals

Three Trees Kayak and RV Campground

Located 40 minutes outside of Lexington, this is a great home base for paddling adventures in the area. Three Trees has kayak rentals for $20 to $35. It’s located on the Kentucky River, and is one mile from Fort Boonesborough State Park, which is a great place to experience historic Kentucky scenery.

Phone: 859-749-3227
Website: www.threetreeskayak.com

Central Kentucky Kayaking

Located about 30 minutes from Lexington in Paris, Kentucky, Central Kentucky Kayaking operates seasonally starting in May. They run rentals mainly on Stoner Creek, giving paddlers long stretches of river to take in the beautiful horse farms and forests of Kentucky.

Phone: 859-457-0388
Website: www.centralkentuckykayaking.com

Canoe Kentucky

Canoe Kentucky offers a variety of tour opportunities for all experience levels in Frankfort, a 45-minute drive from Lexington. Elkhorn Creek is a popular spot, and Canoe Kentucky has half- and full-day tours ranging from $45 for a solo kayak to $150 for a five-person raft.

Phone: 502-227-4492
Website: www.canoeky.com


Kentucky Cave Kayaking

One of the best paddling adventures in Kentucky is cave kayaking. Mammoth Caves and Red River Gorge are the best spots to find this otherworldly experience. Both offer unique guided tours.

Thrillsville takes you through the caves under Red River Gorge by headlamp, where you’ll hear the history of the cavern and the story of why it flooded. Tours are a shorter experience at one hour; however, there are many other activities at Thrillsville to make for an action-packed day.

 

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Mammoth Caves is a Kentucky classic, a national park with nearly 12 miles of cave trail, 70+ miles of surface trail, 13 campsites, and boundless exploring for everyone. Recently, a 330 million-year-old shark jaw was found in one of the caves, but don’t worry—there are no sharks today! Paddlers have 30 miles on the Green and Nolin Rivers to fish, explore, camp on islands and floodplains, and enjoy some of the best kayaking and canoeing in Kentucky.

The National Parks Service has an extensive Mammoth Caves website, which features three rental companies: Cave Country Canoe, Green River Canoeing, Inc. and Mammoth Cave Canoe and Kayak.


Best Places to Kayak Fish in Kentucky

There’s plenty on tap for kayak fishing in Kentucky, as the state is home to a variety of fish, including bass, bluegill, perch, crappie, muskellunge and catfish, along with over 100 other species. Alongside the areas mentioned here, most of the Kentucky river system is home to plentiful fishing, and there are many opportunities for exploration.

Tom Wallace Lake in Jefferson Memorial Forest is home to beautiful scenery and great paddling, and is regularly stocked with fish. It’s only a 30-minute drive from downtown Louisville, and is a gorgeous example of Kentucky’s kayak fishing. If you’re heading here, Nachand Canoe & Kayak is a popular option for rentals.

The Lower Barren River is in Bowling Green, and boasts an array of boat access for kayak anglers. Kentucky Tourism recommends kayak fishing in Drakes Creek for its biodiversity and scenic surroundings. Close to Bowling Green, there are several rental options in the Drakes Creek area.


 

View from the stern of a canoe on a lake, with mountains in background
No matter your experience level, there’s a paddling experience for everyone in Kentucky. | Feature photo: Sorbyphoto/Pixabay

Best Canoe Trips in Kentucky

Multi-day paddling trips are common in Kentucky, and there are many options to suit your experience level and timeline.

In Louisville, the Ohio River is wide and calm for the most part, and is a popular area for local paddlers. If you’re looking for a multi-day trip, you can launch in Louisville and take three or four days to make the journey to Cincinnati.

Other overnight trips in Kentucky include:

  • 17-Mile Upper Cumberland (two days)
  • Blue Heron to Hwy 927 (two to three days)
  • Leatherwood Ford to Blue Heron (two to three days)

The above routes are available as guided tours from Sheltowee Trace Adventure Resort. Other routes include:

  • Kentucky Lake to Lake Barkley
  • Green River through Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Station Camp to Blue Heron

Kentucky Kayaking Laws

You are not required to have a boating license in Kentucky to operate a non-motorized vessel.

Fishing licences are not required in state parks; however, across the state of Kentucky, creel and size restrictions apply in and out of state parks. While it’s not a law, submitting a float plan is a great idea to give those you’re leaving on shore a starting place to look should you be delayed coming off the water.

No matter your experience level, there’s a paddling experience for everyone in Kentucky. | Feature photo: Sorbyphoto/Pixabay

 

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