Daniel Boone National Forest

Whitewater at Rockcastle Narrows.

The Cumberland River system, which is tops in Kentucky for whitewater paddling, covers most of Daniel Boone National Forest.

Seven of the Cumberland's tributaries are rivers that have been designated "Kentucky Wild Rivers" by the state: the Rockcastle, the Cumberland, the Big South Fork of the Cumberland, the Little South Fork of the Cumberland, Martins Fork of the Cumberland, Rock Creek, and Bad Branch. The last three listed are not floatable, while the others are navigable only at appropriate water levels. The Red River, a tributary of the Kentucky River system, is another "Wild" stretch. The designated stretches run as long as 17 miles. Some stretches on the upper Rockcastle and upper Cumberland are ideal "light whitewater" for novices to try their luck. Farther down, expect to hone expert skills in Class III and Class IV rapids. These lower runs demand serious training, experience, and preparation. Be sure to check water conditions before shoving off.

Federal and private land are intermixed all along the rivers. Be sure you know which is which when you stop to camp.

The forest boasts two large lakes—Cave Run and Laurel River Lake—plus a portion of Lake Cumberland. The lakes are your standard full-service American dams, so expect power boats and personal watercraft. But they're lovely nonetheless, with many little coves and the forest running down to the edge—so you should be able to find your own spot to get away from it all.


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