Big Branch Canoe Launch

Area Status: Open

Red RiverCanoe launching area near the Red River on the Cumberland District of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

19.4 miles (31.22 km) of the Red River is designated a federal Wild and Scenic River. It is the only Wild and Scenic River in Kentucky. The Red River provides a great paddling experience for both beginners and experts. 

Most visitors prefer to float downstream from the Copperas Creek Canoe launch, located near the Osborne Bend trailhead parking lot. This mostly class I section is great for beginners, but also provides enough sandbars, riffles, and small ledges to make paddling interesting for everyone. This 10.5 mile (16.89 km) section takes about 6 hours to complete and averages 55°F-60°F (12.7°C-15.5°C) water temperature in April. The Wild and Scenic River designation ends at the Schoolhouse Branch confluence. 

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.

The upper Red River is a 10.8-mile (17.38 km) section that is considered one of the most challenging stretches of whitewater in the southeastern United States. Beginning at the Big Branch Canoe Launch near KY 746, the river twists through a series of Class III rapids. During high water, this section is very dangerous. Due to the remote location within the Clifty Wilderness, rescues and walk-outs are exceedingly difficult. The upper Red River should only be attempted by expert paddlers. The entire run takes about 6 hours.

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

General Information



From the Mountain Parkway, take exit 43 and follow KY 15 south to KY 191. Follow 191 through Campton to reach KY 746. Turn right and follow 746 north past the bridge over the Red River to KY 3357 (Sandfield Road) on the right. Look for a signed right turn onto a gravel road for the Big Branch river access. Do not use the KY 746 bridge for river access, since this area is private property.


Parking is available at the canoe launch.

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