Written by: Tourism
The Cumberland River in Jamestown, Kentucky is one of the premier trout fishing destinations in the United States and one of the best Kentucky rivers for kayaks and canoes. Be sure to add a kayak adventure on the Cumberland to your Kentucky vacation things to do!
Lake Cumberland boat rentals are available as well as kayak and canoe rentals on the Cumberland River. Foggy Bottom Campground & Outfitters have a shuttle service, kayak and canoe rentals for the Cumberland River and are located by the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery. Please make your Lake Cumberland boat rental reservations and Cumberland River boat rental reservations in advance. For kayak and canoe rentals on the Cumberland River, call (270) 343-2510.
The first 16 miles of the Cumberland River, beginning at the Kendall Recreation Area boat ramp, is a great place for canoeists, kayaks, and owners of small john boats to float and fish. Along this portion are a few mildly challenging shoals, but it is the perfect spot for beginners to practice their kayaking skills, and be able to relax and enjoy the river. Floaters that don’t want a lengthy shuttle may launch at Kendall Recreation Area and take out at Ray Mann Road, which makes for a 1.75 mile trip and a shuttle trip of only a couple minutes. From Kendall to Ray Mann Road includes the Hatchery Creek outflow, which is a wonderful place to fish. Boyd’s Bar, a productive wading shoal for rainbow and brown trout, lies at the end of Ray Mann Road boat ramp.
The next Cumberland River take out after Ray Mann Road, is a little over 4.5 miles downstream from Wolf Creek Dam at Helm’s Landing boat ramp. If you’re looking for a spot to spend the night, “Riverside Retreat” motel/lodge is located right at Helm’s Landing, and a great place to stay. Toward the end of this section of the Cumberland River, you will see two rock walls on each side of the river. Legend says that people removed rocks and piled them near the riverbank to help steamboats power over a shoal in the river. For Kentucky fishing, this is one of the most productive rainbow trout fishing spots on the Cumberland River.
From Helm’s Landing, it is a 5.8 mile float to the next Cumberland River take out point which is the Rockhouse Natural Bridge. In this section, the Cumberland River is a series of shoals and long pools. Near the end of this section, paddlers will see the river take a hard left turn at a high bluff – called “Rockhouse Hole.” The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife purchased the island on the downstream left, just above Rockhouse Hole. This island bar is called “Long Bar”, although some refer to the area as Snow Island and is one of the better wading shoals in this section. Rockhouse Natural Bridge can be a take out spot; however, it requires you to carry your boat through the arch and up a steep incline to the parking lot. The Rockhouse serves as the put in spot for the next section of the Cumberland River. (Although the float from the Rockhouse to the next take out at Winfrey’s Ferry is 5.5 miles on the water, the shuttle is just 1.5 miles. A single paddler could drop off a boat in the Rockhouse parking lot, drive down KY 379 to Winfrey’s Ferry, then walk back, leaving the vehicle parked at the end of the float.
Rainbow Run is just downstream from the Rockhouse, which is a long gravel bar on your right. Class I rapids downstream of this area provide lively paddling, and a little further along on this float is Winfrey’s Rocks at downstream left. These rocks served as signposts for boat pilots during the steamboat era. The rocks, located halfway through the float, mark a deep hole that holds very large brown trout. The rest of this section of the river to Winfrey’s Ferry is a long, deep hole. Look for a cable that goes across the Cumberland River, which indicates the take out downstream on the right.
The Cumberland River rises quickly when electrical generation begins at the dam. Be sure to check the generation schedule before you venture out – (606) 678-8697.
One of the most popular Lake Cumberland places to stay is at the Lake Cumberland State Resort Park, which is just 4 miles from Wolf Creek Dam. For those that prefer camping, the Kendall Recreation Area has large RV sites, tent camping sites, hot showers, electric and drinking water.