Red River

Area Status: Open

Red RiverThe 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. It is located  on the Cumberland District of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

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.

Download the Red River: A National Wild and Scenic River Brochure 

At a Glance

Passes: No fee for river use.  All vehicles on KY 15 or in the Red River Gorge and Indian Creek area north of KY 15 must display a recreation permit for backcountry camping between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. $5/day; $7/3 days; $50/annual pass. Recreation Passes and Permits‚Äč
Information Center: Gladie Office Contact Information


River and Stream Fishing

Recreation areas with activity River and Stream Fishing:

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.

Launch Ramps Upper 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
Class of rapids Upper : Class II to III Middle: Class I Lower: Class I
Type of Craft Canoe
Difficulty Level: Easy to More Difficult

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Area/Length : 
10.8 miles