Flatwater Paddling the Tradewater River

As a tributary of the Ohio River, the Tradewater River flows from Hopkinsville to Sturgis, Kentucky, and access is available at several points throughout its 136-mile length. The more popular section are the areas closest to Hopkinsville and Sturgis, but there are many, many stretches of river to enjoy if you’re willing to search for ramps or find a bridge to put in at.
What Makes It Great
Western Kentucky is covered in meandering blueways, and while the Tradewater River may not be swift, it’s the perfect river to float on a lazy summer day.
Rising in Hopkinsville near the Tennessee border, the Tradewater flows north/northeast before meeting up with the Ohio River. The geology of the river is mostly Pennsylvanian limestone, so large, exposed cliffs between thickly wooded meadows and pastoral farmland are common sights.
Ecologically, the Tradewater is home to a variety of common game fish, including Kentucky spotted bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and catfish. If you pay attention during your float, you can also see spotted gar and alligator gar, which can grow up to five feet long and surface often.
The Tradewater is navigable with just about any boat. Whether you take a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, any beginner will be able to negotiate the occasional choppy section with confidence while moving around the river banks to look for deer, turkey, or to catch fish.
Certain sections of the Tradewater can get crowded during summer weekends, but anyone can avoid the crowds by finding a public boat ramp away from the canoe rental companies that set up shop on different parts of the river.
Who is Going to Love It
For anyone who loves a long summer day on the river, the Tradewater is a solid destination to drink something cold and relax down a quiet and scenic river. This float is definitely family and beginner-friendly, as well. It’s easy to find fun rope swings in deep swimming holes, small waterfalls, feeder creeks, and other places to stop and explore.
For conventional and fly anglers, the Tradewater is a great river to target bass, the plethora of brightly colored sunfish species, or just drag live bait on the bottom to pick a fight with a true river monster: the channel catfish.
Directions, Parking & Regulations
A lot of great folks have worked very hard to preserve large sections of the Tradewater, but there are still a lot of private farms and homes, so be careful to responsibly put-in, take-out, and explore on public land only, avoiding the private property.
Written by Charlie Morgan for RootsRated in partnership with Kentucky Tourism.

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