Scouting Kentucky’s Green River, Tourist Traps, Backroads and Other Diversions – Part 4
I could easily spend a month or so on the Green River. Throw in its tributaries, and I could probably stretch it out to a year or more.
After canoeing 20 miles of the Green River in Mammoth Cave National Park, I spent a few days scouting parts of the upper and lower river and Nolin River by car. I didn’t come away with any great knowledge these stretches, but I saw enough to get an idea of what they’re like and nurtured a desire to explore them further.
There are more than 100 miles of navigable river upstream of the park, 26 within park boundaries and 185 miles from Houchins Ferry, near the west end of the park, to the mouth of the Green River in Evansville, Ind. The Nolin River, which flows through the west end of the park, is more than 100 miles long. The last nine miles from Nolin River Dam, then upstream on the Green River to Houchins Ferry, would make for a good day float.
According to online and printed sources such as Bob Sehlinger’s book “A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to the Streams of Kentucky,” the river upstream of Green River Lake can be run between November and mid June. The rest can be paddled year-round. There also are several tributaries that looked promising. (When and whether any river can be run is subjective. It all depends on how much bushwhacking and dragging you’re willing to do. And how much stuff you feel that you need to pack.)
Downstream on the Green River is a different story. According to Sehlinger, it’s not as scenic and far more civilized. From what little of it I saw, the lower Green River would be comparable to the Muskingum and Ohio River closer to home — plenty of motorized boat traffic, a few dams along the way and other signs of civilization.
In scouting the rivers by car, I went as far downstream as Lock 6, which is about two miles from the confluence of the Green and Nolin Rivers. Upstream, I went as far as the Green River Dam. I also checked out the Nolin River Dam. The Nolin and upper Green rivers looked inviting.