Blue Water Trails – Upper Green River
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Flowing off the edge of the Knobs in Lincoln County to its confluence with the Ohio River near Henderson, the Green River’s clean, healthy waters hold some of the rarest animals on Earth, including several species only found in the Green River system. More than 150 species of fish live in the river along with 71 species of mussels, making the Green one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the country.
In summer, the waters of the Green River give a paddler the feeling of floating on liquid emeralds. The summertime flows and cool water coming from Green River Lake make the 23 ½ miles of water from the Green River Lake Dam to Greensburg one of the best floating waters in Kentucky at this time of year.
This section of river features many flowing shoals and long deep pools interspersed with enough riffles to make the paddling interesting, but still suitable for families and beginners. The best water levels to paddle the upper Green for casual floating are from 150 to 500 cfs (cubic feet per second) of flow from the Green River Lake Dam.
The flow grows a little swift above 500 cfs and local outfitters recommend against floating if the flow from the dam is above 1,000 cfs. Go to the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at www.lrl.usace.army.mil/, and click on the “Recreation” tab and then the “Lake Levels” tab. You will see a chart showing the outflow from Green River Lake Dam.
The first float is a 12.5 mile stretch from the Tailwater Recreation Area below Green River Lake Dam to Roachville Ford. This part of the Green is a full day float, especially if you plan to fish. When the outflow from the dam runs below 200 cfs, it is an 8-hour straight paddle in a kayak.
Those who plan to fish should put in early in the morning and plan to take out at dusk in summer for this float. The Tailwater Recreation Area lies just off KY 55, while the take-out at Roachville Ford is reached by traveling north from the recreation area on KY 55 to KY 1701 (Roachville Road, also known as Miller Chapel Road). The road to the ford lies unmarked and on the left (coming from KY 55) in the middle of a sharp right-hand turn. If you reach Miller Chapel, you’ve missed it. Roachville Ford is on right side of the river (looking downstream) at the head of a long riffle.
For an incredibly interesting and relatively unknown side trip, take the Battle of Tebbs Bend-Green River Bridge Battlefield Driving Tour. The tour starts at Tebbs Bend Road off KY 55 (look for a large white sign) just north of the Tailwater Recreation Area and concludes on the southern portion of Tebbs Bend road about two miles south on KY 55. Tebbs Bend Road is currently closed to vehicular traffic at the Green River Bridge.
A force of 250 Federal soldiers from the 25th Michigan Infantry held off eight attacks from 800 to1,000 Confederates under the command of Gen. John Hunt Morgan on July 4, 1863 in the Battle of Tebbs Bend. The Green River Lake Visitor’s Center off KY 55 at Green River Lake Dam has a free brochure detailing the interpretive stops on the tour.
The next float begins at Roachville Ford and runs for 6.6 miles to Russell Ford. This section features many islands and chutes flowing through thick stands of water willow. Good fishing holes exist just upstream and downstream of these islands. The take-out at Russell Ford lies at the end of Ralph Vaughn Road off KY 417 on the outskirts of Greensburg. (Look for the white Green River Paddle Trail sign on the right at the end of Ralph Vaughn Road).
A paddler new to floating this section of Green River could easily float past Russell Ford. The main channel flows on the right side of the river while the take-out is in the middle of a shoal, known as Russell Island, on the left. The Green River makes a hard northward loop about three-quarters of the way through this float and then makes a stern right around Marcum Island. After a straight stretch, the next shoal is Russell Ford.
The next float can be taken as a whole or cut into two short excursions. The put-in is at Russell Ford and the take-out is about four and one-half miles downstream at the Green River Paddle Trail facility in Greensburg. You can cut this float in half by either putting in or taking out at the American Legion Park Ramp. The ramp lies at the edge of the American Legion Park closest to the KY 417 bridge.
Stay on KY 417 all the way into Greensburg to find the take-out. This road turns into Columbia Avenue in Greensburg. The Green River Paddle Trail facility is on your left on West Columbia Avenue, just after crossing Main Street.
The Green River in this section holds an abundant population of smallmouth bass. This part of the Green has many long, medium depth holes with one section slack and another flowing. Concentrate your efforts on the edges of the flowing sections with medium-running crawfish-colored crankbaits or 4-inch skirted double-tailed grubs in the green pumpkin or motor oil color, rigged on a 1/8-ounce leadheads.
The deep, flowing parts of the river just above and below riffles, shoals, and islands should be probed for smallmouths. A black 4-inch finesse worm rigged on 1/8-ounce leadhead works well in these areas as does a 1/8-ounce pumpkinseed or green pumpkin colored jig tipped with a small black curly-tailed grub. The upper Green has long stretches of shoal water rimmed by water willow. A small white spinnerbait worked along the edges of the willow plants will draw strikes.
Crappie lurk around the fallen tree branches and other woody cover in the deeper holes along this stretch of the Green. A 3-inch white or chartreuse curly-tailed grub worked in this cover should draw interest from hungry crappie. This crappie fishery is often overlooked.
Largemouth and spotted bass also abound in the upper Green. A 4-inch weightless soft-plastic jerkbait in the Albino shad or pearl colors worked in the woody cover along the slower sections in the pools will draw strikes. A 4-inch black curly-tailed grub worked in the same areas is a deadly lure as well.
In the early morning and at dusk, topwater chuggers worked slowly along the edges of fallen tree branches and other cover draw vicious hits from all three black bass species. A bass-sized medium-running shad-colored crankbait worked in the deeper woody cover may draw interest from the toothy muskellunge that lurk in the depths of this section of Green River.
The Green River Paddle Trail in Greensburg offers four cabins for rent, ample parking for floaters taking out, RV hookups and a good ramp. They also rent canoes and kayaks and offer shuttle services. This facility lies just blocks from downtown Greensburg which is designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
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 of this float.
Green River Paddle Trail:
Canoe rentals, shuttles, overnight trips: (270)-789-2956