Mammoth Cave National Park

Paddling
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The Green River, Mammoth Cave National Park.
The Green River, Mammoth Cave National Park. (courtesy, NPS)

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. 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. The Green River, dotted within sandbars, islands, and subsurface springs, averages 200 feet wide and ten feet deep; at normal water levels, it runs at about five miles per hour.

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.

You may rent canoes from concessionaires located near the park. With a backcountry camping permit, you can camp anywhere within the floodplain more than 1/2 mile from ferry crossings or developed campgrounds. River levels and currents fluctuate dramatically, particularly during the winter months. 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. You must bring at least one Coast Guard-approved life preserver for each person.

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


River Rules

In order to protect you and protect the rivers, please honor the following regulations:

  • 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, firegrates, 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 at Dennison Ferry Campground or Houchins Ferry Campground, 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.

Please respect the following 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.

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