Kentucky's Green River
This view of the Green River in Hart County looks downstream from the ramp at Thelma Stovall Park in Munfordville at what the pioneers called the "Big Buffalo Crossing of the Green."
From Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The karst topography surrounding the Green River in Hart County produces some of the highest water quality in Kentucky. Many springs empty into the river in this stretch that pump a constant flow of clean, cold water and give the river a color more reminiscent of the shallows of the Caribbean than south-central Kentucky.
The Green in this stretch is one of the most biologically diverse in the world, holding species only found in this river system. It holds 70 species of mussels. Some are extremely rare mussels once abundant in the Ohio Valley, but which are now tenuously holding on to their presence on Earth in the Green. The strategic importance of the river also made it a theater of battle during the Civil War.
Three floats give visitors an intimate view of arguably the most scenic stretch of Green River. This section features springs bursting from river bluffs, islands, chutes, mild riffles and long deep holes, which are perfect for beginners or a family seeking a day away from the world.
The drive to the put-in and take-out locations may rival the scenic grandeur of the Green itself. This stretch also holds healthy, big smallmouth bass and some large muskellunge.
The first 9 ½-mile all-day float begins at the mouth of Lynn Camp Creek near the Hart and Green county line. Lynn Camp Creek held the first gunpowder mill in Kentucky, producing powder used by Gen. Andrew Jackson in his victory over the British in the last battle of the War of 1812. Contact Big Buffalo Crossing Canoe and Kayak Rentals in Munfordville about shuttles to use this access or obtain landowner permission.
The Green runs fairly straight for a little over a mile until the river bends hard left at a feature called the Narrows at the end of Davis Bend. A long sand bar just before the bend is a productive place to work a black 4-inch double-tailed skirted grub rigged on a 3/16-ounce standup leadhead for smallmouth bass. Several similar sandbars that create riffles lie in this stretch and should be fished with the same rig. The flowing, rocky outside bends of the river in this stretch hold smallmouths as well.
Just after the bend, the river flows around Round Bottom. In the middle of the bottom lies the Three Hundred Springs, a series of small waterfalls that seem to flow from bushes on the side of a bluff. It is one of the most unique spots paddlers will visit in Kentucky, but they flow to a trickle during dry periods.
After rounding Figett Bend to the left, Bell Cliff soars above the paddler on the right (looking downstream). The river then snakes back on itself around Watkins Bend and Horseshoe Bend and under Knox and Grindstone knobs before flowing under the U.S. 31 E Bridge. The take-out is just downstream of the bridge on the right at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ Upper Green River Voluntary Public Access (VPA) ramp at the forgotten community of Rio, also called Rio Springs. The ramp is a short distance down East Glen Lily Road off U.S. 31 E, just past a power substation on the left.
The next float begins at Upper Green River VPA and ends 8 miles downstream at Harry Wilson Park. The Green widens and slows in this stretch.
Many sand bars greet boaters in this section of the river and the flowing upper and lower reaches of these bars hold smallmouth bass. Fish the fallen tree tops and root wads in the deeper holes with a gold and black medium-running crankbait for muskellunge.
As the river flows downstream from Rio, paddlers round Thomas Bend and the estate of Confederate Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner who participated in the Battles of Munfordville and Perryville. Buckner also served as the 30th Governor of Kentucky. In the middle of Thomas Bend, Buckner Spring greets the Green River, forming an island that holds smallmouth bass in summer as well as an injection of cool water from the spring during wet periods.
The Green flows south and bends right under Boyd Knob before flowing to the take-out at Harry Wilson Park, off KY 2185. Look for orange tape on a guard rail in a sharp curve of the road for the turn into the park. Johnson Spring meets the river right here.
The next 4-mile float begins at Harry Wilson Park and ends at Thelma Stovall Park, also called Green River Park, in Munfordville. This is an easy half-day float with short shuttles. Immediately downstream of the put-in, the river takes a hard left at Sims Bend and then flows again to the right. Anglers should target flowing water around the two large sandbars in this area for smallmouth bass.
After the last sandbar, the Green flows deeper with several fallen trees that hold bluegill and on occasion, muskellunge. Anglers may pick up a few crappie here as well. A final sandbar meets boaters just above the U.S. 31 W Bridge.
The take-out lies a little downstream of the bridge on the right at the ramp in Thelma Stovall Park on River Road in downtown Munfordville, at what the pioneers called the Big Buffalo Crossing. This ancient crossing, used by Native Americans and bison for centuries, was also the site of Amos’ Ferry that operated for over 100 years. A highway bridge made the ferry obsolete in 1907, but the old piers from this early bridge stand on both sides of the river at the ramp.
Visitors may combine a day of hiking along the Green with a paddle back to Munfordville by taking the 4 ½-mile Jenny Wilson Byrd Memorial Trail. The trail begins in at Thelma Stovall Park and concludes at Harry Wilson Park and features small bluffs, wildflowers, springs and continuous views of the river.
The Louisville and Nashville Railroad Bridge at Munfordville was vitally important for access to the interior of the upper South for both sides during the Civil War. A battle ensued from Sept. 14 – 17, 1862 for control of this important bridge. The Union forces held out valiantly, inflicting heavy casualties on the officers of the Mississippi regiments attempting to take the bridge. The Union surrendered after an overwhelming Confederate force under Gen. Braxton Bragg advanced to Munfordville.
Visitors paddling Green River may also take a walking and cellphone tour of historic sites in downtown Munfordville and visit the Battle of the Bridge Historic Preserve. Big Buffalo Crossing Canoe and Kayak Rentals offers canoe and kayak rentals, overnight floats with primitive camping and shuttles.
Munfordville Tourism Commission:
Big Buffalo Crossing Canoe and Kayak Rentals:
The Blue Water Trails series supports Gov. Steve Beshear’s Adventure Tourism Initiative. Log on to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s Blue Water Trails webpage at fw.ky.gov for a detailed map.
Author Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, visit our website at fw.ky.gov.