Rockcastle River

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

Rockcastle River

The Rockcastle River got its name from the majestic cliffs that tower above the river.

The "Rockcastle Narrows" is a precipitous gorge bounded by 100-foot cliffs. The river flows through portions of Jackson, Rockcastle, Laurel and Pulaski counties.

The 15.9-mile segment from KY 1956 (old Highway 80) bridge to the backwaters of Lake Cumberland is designated a Kentucky Wild River.  

Upper Rockcastle River

Livingston to I-75 Bridge
This section of river is rated as Class I+. The put-in is located on private land at the Wilderness Road ford just south of Livingston on U.S. 25. Please respect the rights of private landowners.

The take-out is just beyond I-75 on the right side of the river, 6 miles downstream and also on private land. The trip takes between 1 and 3 hours, depending on the water level and the paddler's ability. 

Class: I+ 
Miles: 6
Hours: 1-3
Season: November - June
Skill Level: Families and Beginners
Put-in: U.S. 25, Livingston
Take-out: I-75 Bridge

I-75 Bridge to Ky 1956 (Billows Bridge)
The river from I-75 bridge to KY 1956 meanders for 10.6 miles and is considered to be a Class I+. Most of this section is flat water with a few easy shoals. The river follows KY 1329 for approximately 2 miles. There is no paved access to the river beyond I-75 until the take out, which is on the left side of the river just beyond the bridge. The take out is on private land. Plan on between 3 and 5 hours to make the trip. 

Class: I+ 
Miles: 10.6
Hours: 3-5
Season: November - June
Skill Level: Families and Beginners
Put-in: I-75 Bridge
Take-out: KY 80 Bridge

Lower Rockcastle River

This section of river is designated a Kentucky Wild River and includes one of the most challenging whitewater runs in Kentucky. It is a long 16.9-mile stretch of water with several Class III and at least one Class IV rapid along the way. It should be attempted only by experienced, well-equipped paddlers.

Big Narrows and Beech Narrows can be portaged using trails on the left side of the river. Only boaters with advanced expert skills should attempt Beech Narrows due to serious "Keeper" hydraulics and undercut rocks. Plan on at least 8 hours for the trip.

The take-out is at the Bee Rock Recreation Area on the east side of the campground. 

At a Glance

Permit Info: A Special Use Permit is required for commercial activities (for example: fishing tournaments, boat rentals, trail rides, outfitter guides, races, etc). A permit is also required for all noncommercial group uses involving more than 75 people.
  • You must comply with all regulations established by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources concerning fishing, boating and waterway safety laws. 
  • Alcohol use prohibited on national forest land and Kentucky lakes and waterways. (KRS 222.202)
  • Camping is prohibited within 300 feet of the following areas: High water line of the portion of Upper Lake Cumberland from the Mouth of Laurel Boat Ramp upstream on the Laurel River; or Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail (NRT-100) to the administrative boundary between National Forest System and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer lands (36 CFR 261.58(e)); (Order 14-04-15)
  • Camping is prohibited within 300 feet of the water’s edge of Laurel River Lake or Lake Cumberland except at sites designated for camping (36 CFR 261.58(e)); (Order 14-04-15)
  • Camping is prohibited within 300 feet of any Road or Trail leading to the waters edge of Laurel River Lake or Lake Cumberland except at sites designated for camping (36 CFR 261.58(e)); (Order 14-04-15)
  • No swimming or sunbathing within 100 feet of any boat launching ramp or courtesy boat dock. (Order DB-03-15)
  • No use of steel drums or barrels as floating devices. (Order DB-03-15)
  • No storing or leaving a watercraft unattended overnight at a location not designated for overnight boat storage. (Order DB-03-15)
  • No launching a motor boat at a site not designated for boat launching  (Order DB-03-15)
  • No fishing from any boat ramp or courtesy dock. (Order DB-03-15)
  • No landing of aircraft or dropping or picking up any material or person by means of an aircraft on waters of the DBNF. (Order DB-03-15)
  • PROHIBITED: Entry into areas closed for the protection of endangered, threatened, rare, unique, or vanishing species of plants, animals, birds, or fish. (Order DB-09-15)  
Information Center: London Ranger District
761 South Laurel Road
London, KY 40744

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Camping & Cabins

Show detail SHOW


Show detail SHOW

Water Activities

Show detail SHOW