Red River

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

The Red River, located in the Red River Gorge, tumbles through huge boulders in a narrow, twisting and largely inaccessible hemlock gorge. Originating in Wolfe County, the Red River runs through Powell County and empties into the Kentucky River south of Winchester.

The 9.1-mile segment from the KY 746 bridge to the mouth of Swift Camp Creek is designated as a Kentucky Wild River and features some of the most spectacular canoeing water in the eastern United States. The 19.4-mile segment from KY 746 to the ford below Schoolhouse Branch was designated a National Wild and Scenic River in 1993.

Make this page look nicer by submitting photos of your adventures on this river. Learn more...

Red River Gorge 36x36 Map

Avenza Digital Maps

A Red River Gorge digital map is available from the Avenza Maps online map store. For the best user experience, use our maps within a GPS-enabled mobile app such as Avenza Maps. To find a map, go to Avenza's Get Maps page and search to locate a map.

At a Glance

Fees None
Information Center: Gladie Visitor Center
3451 Sky Bridge Road
Stanton, KY 40380
859-488-1413 (2020 season)



Show detail SHOW

Water Activities

Hide detail HIDE

Boating - Non-Motorized

Recreation areas with activity Boating - Non-Motorized:

The 10.8 mile upper section of the river is a Class II to III whitewater stream of unparalleled beauty. The put-in point is at Big Branch; 1.7 miles downstream from the put-in point you cross under the KY 746 bridge, the former put-in point for this segment. The first 3 miles below the KY 746 bridge are scenic Class I water with a good current. Below the mouth of Stillwater Creek, the gradient increases with a technical, Class III rapids.

For a half-mile below Pecks Branch, the Red River twists through a series of three borderline Class III rapids - popularly know as the "Narrows of the Red". Generally the run is a Class II, runnable from late December to late May in years of average rainfall.

The middle Red River is a 8.5-mile section that begins at KY 715 and twists and turns through the center of the Red River Gorge Geological Area and past Sky Bridge Arch, Tower Rock and Chimney Top Rock. The middle section is runnable from late fall to early summer most years. The take-out is on the right under the KY 77 bridge.

The lower Red River is an approximately 2-mile Class I section that remains very scenic as it winds along and then finally runs out of the Red River Gorge. The take-out is on the right, at an old ford below Schoolhouse Branch.

Class of rapidsUpper : Class II to III Middle: Class I Lower: Class I
Type of CraftCanoe
Launch RampsUpper Put in: Big Branch Upper Take Out: KY 715 (Concrete bridge) Middle Put in: KY 715 (Concrete Bridge) Middle Take Out: KY 77 (Iron Bridge) Lower Put in: KY 77 (Iron Bridge) Lower Take Out: Schoolhouse Branch
Difficulty Level: Easy to More Difficult