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Green River


Thursday, September 4, 2008


US31 East Bridge to US31 West Bridge in Munfordville




I missed the moving water.  I just love being ushered down a river by gentle currents and riffles.  I love the endearing sound of the water trickling around me, and the fun of trying to choose the best way to navigate the currents.  Sure, you might get stuck if the water is shallow, but that’s just part of learning how to navigate the water – and I have fun with that, too. 


So, it was with all this in mind that I decided to take a break from my Kentucky River navigation to come out here.  You won’t have moving water on the Kentucky, but you will have it on the Green.  There are points of flat water, but they will be interspersed with easy class 1 whitewater on this section.  Munfordville, Kentucky is about 2 hours from Lexington, so it was a longer drive than I’d become accustomed to in visiting points on the Kentucky.  Nevertheless, I’d never seen the Green River and I really wanted to.  Besides, the longer drive also gave me more time to fire up the tunes. 


I’ll tell ya - I don’t intentionally set out to buy Christian rock music, but I’ve found that more than half of what I do buy and listen to is Christian.  I simply hear the music, find that it really rocks, and then buy it.  It’s only later that I discover in reading about the bands that they happen to be Christian.  Many times you simply wouldn’t know this just listening to the music.  There are occasional religious references in the lyrics, but the bands aren’t preaching - they’re just simply composing better rock music than a lot of the other bands out there.  Two examples I listened to on the way out were the debuts from High Flight Society and Sanctus Real.  For what it’s worth, both, in my opinion, are outstanding.  Check em out on the Amazon sampler!


Anyway, the outfitter I was going to use for this trip, Big Buffalo Trace (, was located just outside downtown Munfordville in the Thelma Stovall Park on the river.  They’re right at the boat ramp in a little cabin (you’ll see the canoes).  The trip I’d set up was for 11AM, but I had arrived a little late (about 11:15) and there was no one there.  I tried calling the numbers listed but couldn’t get through, and the cabin was locked up, so I went down to the water to check out the river…


Seeing the Green for the first time gave me the same kind of feeling I get when I meet an extremely nice person for the first time.  I felt as if I was being welcomed as a new friend - it was very inviting.  In fact, it was so pleasant that it seemed beckon me!  I couldn’t resist...  “Maybe I can just paddle around until they get here and get a feel for the river”, I was thinking, so I drove down and put my boat and gear in.


As I began paddling upriver I quickly realized that the Green River is just that – green!  It has many different kinds of algae.  Some kinds lie on top of the water while others are visible on the bottom.  In fact, the bottom variety seemed to take the appearance of very long, green horsetails.  They clung to a rock and then extended a few to several feet down the river, hanging loosely and swaying to and fro along with the current.  Combined with the trees lining the banks all this gives the river a really lush feel.  It’s quite nice.  There were also a lot of mollusk shells on the bottom of the riverbed.



Totally immersed in all this, I continued paddling upriver, and once I was a little way up I looked at my phone to get the time...  Oh no…  Turns out that there had been a time zone change during my trip out here from Lexington!  I had not realized this.  I hadn’t been 15 minutes late – I’d been 45 minutes early!  No wonder no one had been there!  Duh - they hadn’t been expecting me that early.  I felt badly and hoped that I had not inconvenienced them too much.  The impossibly hapless forgetful man-klutz strikes again!  Scary…


At any rate, this realization having only just dawned on me, I was too far upriver to change course and go back.  I thought that maybe I’d just continue and see how far I could get.  I’d been working to coordinate a group trip for the following Saturday out here and I didn’t think the outfitter would mind if I did a little scouting for the trip.  I continued on...


I’d only have to get out of the boat a couple times in the first several miles, but at one point it was a real workout as I was pounding out the paddling and still just inching along, my course taking me back and forth from bank to bank as I searched for the easiest path up.  It was once I had very slowly edged up and through the flow that I felt like letting out a shout of triumph - couldn’t bring myself to do it though – didn’t want to disturb the peace!  Anyway, I would have felt very self conscious and foolish had I done this.  I let out a “whoop” in my head instead.


At a certain point I just decided that I’d try to reach the bridge over the river that was indicated in the Kentucky paddling guidebook (  That bridge (US31 East) was apparently 12 miles up (although I think it’s more like 10), and since that was roughly the same distance as the trip I’d originally planned for today with Big Buffalo Trace, I figured that they must have a ramp at or near there.  I planned turn back once I’d reached that point... 


Well, I wound up getting out of the boat about 6 times total on the way up to this bridge, and once I reached it I was certainly happy to have done so.  I was getting a little tired, and I looked forward to the easier trip back riding the current.  Reaching the bridge around 3:30, I was thinking:  “5 hours up, maybe 4 hours back with the current?” 


That thinking might have me back at the park ramp before dark, although the time change couldn’t have been in full effect - it would probably still have the feel of the Eastern Time zone in Lexington and be fairly dark by that point, so even with the current on my side I’d be pushing darkness - especially down on the river.  The wind had been kicking up at times too (and it’s never at my back).  It had also been mostly cloudy all day, so rain was a possibility.    I decided not to dawdle on the way back down.


Immediately after the bridge (from a downriver perspective now) a concrete boat ramp entered the river on the right side, and what looked like a water intake sat along the river directly across from it on the left.  I won’t be sure until I take the trip next Saturday whether or not this actually is the ramp for the outfitter, but my best guess is that it’s the starting point for their 8 mile trip.  This ramp entered near a little shoal with some riffles going around it, and there were 2 sets of steps leading down to the bank.  It also looked like they had a shelter for what might be a little park or getaway. 


It was here that I enjoyed riding DOWN the water for the first time on the currents instead of up.  In fact, I’d have most of the moving water within the first couple miles.  The river is nearly straight, but it veers very slightly about every quarter mile at different shoals.  Some of these form islands in the middle, but at each one the river is compressed, creating class 1 whitewater.  It’s pretty easy and very pleasant.



Some of the shoals in here were real giants, and there were signs that they’d been camped on, but other than that you do get a feel that you’re really in the wilderness in this section.  Even though the water level for the river is determined by the releases from Green River Lake dam about 70 miles up, the stream really does take on an untamed feel.  70 miles is a long away, so I assume that unless there’s a huge dam release, the river pretty much flows the way it did back in the frontier days.



In fact, the dams that affect the flow don’t even enter the picture again for another 40 miles down at Brownsville, and before that the river meanders through the Mammoth Cave National Park.  Hmmm…  Maybe I’ll kayak the length of the Green next year?  Then again, things may be a lot different by then…  Who knows where fate will place you?


The scenery for this trip?  Definitely farmland on one side!  That doesn’t change.  The other side is generally wooded hills, and there would be springs emanating from these at times, mostly in the latter sections.  There are places to stop and rest, the most accessible of which are in the first few miles.  If you’re the type that’s likely to say “yuck” or “eeeyew” at the sight of algae though, then you may not want to stop because the algae is frequently all along the bank and definitely at the shoals. 


After the first couple miles the river settled down, and at times it did get quite shallow, allowing me to see the bottom a couple feet down.  (I found that the most navigable side, in general, was to the left throughout this day; but when the water is as low as it was today you’re apt to get stuck anyway.)  I decided I’d have some fun and try following the trails of the green algae on the bottom to see if they’d point me in the right direction - they didn’t lead me astray. 


At any rate, just as the river started its first major curve (right), a gravel ramp came down to the river on the left side along with a dried up little streambed.  The ramp definitely looked private to me, but it was a spot to note for navigation.  It was right after this that I startled a couple deer on the right bank.  As far as wildlife, I had also spotted a beaver on the way up, and there were some herons as well along with other birds that I am unable to name.  I’m not a birder but I think there must be many different varieties out here.


Upon reaching a dirt ramp down to the river on the left side I figured I’d come to about the 4 mile point of my travel downriver.  There were some cinder blocks here and another incoming little streambed with a sign that simply said “gate”.  It called to mind a friend of mine growing up that had a dog named “dog”.  No kidding!  There was also another massive shoal right after this, although much of it appeared to have been fed by quite a bit of ground erosion.  Entire chunks of bank looked to have fallen down into the river. 


There were a few instances of incoming water in the section after the ramp, and one of these streams had a little rock wall going over it with a square hole for the water to run through.  I wondered if this wall served a specific purpose, or if it was just decorative in nature - it couldn’t have been more than a foot tall.


At another spot there were 2 little trickling streams of water which appeared to go around either side of a large rock face further up the bank - it was an interesting effect.


At the end of a very long straightaway you’ll see another paved ramp coming down to the river.  This is apparently the H.H. Wilson Park according to the Fish and Wildlife Boating Access Sites publication I have (  I believe this is also the 8 mile mark from the US31 Bridge, and the takeout point for Big Buffalo Crossing trip.  I didn’t see any signs of life up at the park, although I did see a vehicle parked there on the way up.  I believed at the time that it belonged to the 2 girls I had passed in kayaks - the only people I saw today on the river.


It was getting pretty dark last 4 miles, but I did have one final bit of light which enabled me to again see a spring on the right bank which I had passed coming up.  It was partially blocked by a fallen tree, and after snapping another shot of this I began picking up the pace.



There wasn’t a lot of current in this last section, and once again I wished that I had more time.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going too fast and that I’m not appreciating things enough, but it was getting so dark that I could no longer see the algae on the river bottom.



It always seems to take a lot longer to get back than it does to get forward, doesn’t it?  I had set out so much earlier in the day that I’d forgotten the landmarks on the river.  I would think that one spot would be the takeout.  It wouldn’t be.  Then surely the next spot would be it...  Nope!  By the time I finally did get there I could see the moon and I really felt like I had made a full day of it.  My first visit to the Green River had been quite pleasant!






US31 West into Munfordville, Kentucky.  Turn west on Old Street and make an immediate left going down into the park.  You’ll see the historical marker.  Big Buffalo Crossing is located all the way down by the boat ramp.