Mammoth Cave National Park

River Recreation

Within the boundaries of Mammoth Cave National Park, 25 miles of the Green River and six miles of the Nolin River carry boaters past dramatic bluffs, majestic trees, and wildlife. The Green River, dotted with sandbars, islands, and subsurface springs, averages 200 feet wide and ten feet deep. The Nolin River also averages about ten feet deep, but its channel is narrower than the Green River. At normal water levels, the Green River runs at about five miles per hour. The current in the Nolin is slower than the current in the Green. Therefore, both rivers offer pleasant canoeing, even for novices. However, when the rivers flood, the current can be very swift. Regardless of the water level, always be alert to hazards, such as submerged trees and rocks, drifting debris, and the two ferries that carry vehicles and passengers across the Green River.

To explore the Green River, launch your boat at Dennison Ferry Campground, Green River Ferry, or Houchins Ferry. The access at Dennison Ferry is steep and therefore suitable for small "John boats" and canoes only. The best take-out points are at Green River Ferry or Houchins Ferry. If you prefer a longer overnight trip, you can launch at Munfordville, upstream from the park boundary. On the Nolin River, launch your boat just below Nolin River Dam at Tailwaters Recreation Area, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. When you reach the Green River, paddle upstream against a gentle current and take out at Houchins Ferry. We do not recommend that you continue paddling down the Green River to Lock and Dam #6. Located outside the park, the approach to the dam is not marked with warning signs; being sucked into the current above the dam could be extremely hazardous.

River Distances

From To Miles
Munfordville Park Boundary 19
Park Boundary Dennison Ferry 3
Dennison Ferry Green River Ferry 7.5
Green River Ferry Houchins Ferry 12
Houchins Ferry Lock & Dam # 6 3
Tailwaters Recreation Area Houchins Ferry 9

All boat passengers must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.

Never dump or discharge refuse in the water.

Do not leave boats unattended for longer than 24 hours without written permission from the Chief Ranger.

Boating accidents resulting in property damage, personal injury, or death must be reported to a park ranger as soon as possible.

All other Coast Guard regulatory requirements apply.

Within easy driving distance of the national park, Nolin, Rough, and Barren River Reservoirs offer boating and fishing activities, and can accommodate large craft.

Riverside Camping

You can reach Houchins Ferry Campground and Dennison Ferry Campground by boat or by car. Houchins Ferry Campground has 12 sites, equipped with picnic tables, fire grates, chemical toilets, fresh water, and an adjacent picnic shelter. Dennison Ferry Campground has four sites, equipped with picnic tables, fire grates, and chemical toilets. No fresh water is available at Dennison Ferry. Reservations are not accepted, and neither campground is suitable for large trailers or RVs.

With a free Backcountry Use Permit, you can also camp on riverbanks and islands along the Green and Nolin Rivers. Be sure to camp at least 1/2 mile away from Green River Ferry, Houchins Ferry, and Dennison Ferry Campground. Pick up your Backcountry Use Permit at the Visitor Center ticket office. 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.

Camping Guidelines

Only collect dead and down wood for campfires.

Be certain that your campfire is dead out before leaving your campsite.

Pack out all non-burnable litter. Never bury it.

Clean your campsite before leaving. Do not pound nails in trees, dig trenches around your campsite, or leave any signs of your presence for campers that follow you.

Be aware of camping hazards, including thunderstorms, sudden river flooding, ticks, and poisonous snakes.

There are other campgrounds in the park, not accessible by river.


Fishing in the Green and Nolin Rivers is good throughout the year, with spring and summer being most productive. Black bass, crappie, bluegill, muskellunge, and catfish, along with almost 100 other species, frequent the river. State creel and size limits apply, but you do not need a state fishing license as long as you fish within park boundaries. In the park, you can fish with pole and line, rod and reel, or trot and throwline; other methods, including limb lines and jug lines, are prohibited. If you use trot lines, you must attach a tag with your name and address, place hooks 30 or more inches apart, tend your lines daily, and remove lines when you are not using them.

At Sloan's Crossing Pond and First Creek Lake, using any live bait other than worms is prohibited. On the rivers, you can use minnows or worms. Using bait seines in the park is strictly regulated, so please check with rangers for specific rules and regulations. Because park wildlife is protected, collecting frogs, turtles, mussels, etc., or digging for bait is strictly prohibited.

Current Kentucky Fish Limits

Species Daily Possession Size
Black Bass 10 20 12"

Rock Bass 15 30 n/a
Crappie 30 60 n/a
Walleye 10 20 15"
Sauger 10 20 n/a
Muskellunge 2 2 30"
Northern Pike 5 10 n/a


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