Kentucky River Palisades: Paddling
Paddling the Palisades is a dream and considered the quintessential blueway for paddlers and adventurers of all skill levels. The Kentucky River Palisades is a unique region that anchors a 450-million-year-old ecosystem consisting of limestone cliffs, deep gorges, springs, and an intricate cave system. Lexington limestone—composed of thin limestone and interbedded shales—covers most of this area. The Palisades region covers approximately 100 river miles through Central Kentucky along the Kentucky River.
What Makes It Great
There’s no wrong place to paddle along the Palisades. The Palisades are great because of how remote it is, how long it is, and how it could take most paddlers multiple trips on the same waterway to cover it all. This one blueway could keep you busy with new sections and new seasonal scenery.
Located deep in Central Kentucky, each section has its own set of unique natural treasures. The scenery itself is nothing less than impressive, with many side creeks, waterfalls, and caves to explore and keep you busy for hours. Since the Palisades are so remote with very little development nearby, many paddlers enjoy being more deeply immersed in nature, and connecting with new levels of solitude—not to mention, a higher likelihood of seeing wildlife, including bobcats, great blue heron, kingfishers, and peregrine falcons. The Palisades are protected by the Nature Conservancy. The group works to maintain the integrity of the area’s natural habitats. Paddle along this preserve, next to gorgeous blue ash, sugar maple, and rock elm, harbor beech, and poplar trees. If you like to include a little hiking along with paddling, stop along sandy river terraces and perch atop bluff-top ridges.
Who is Going to Love It
Every nature lover is going to love the Palisades—including non-paddlers. If you’re not already into exploring waterways, the Palisades are sure to inspire you and will likely convert you into a paddler. This blueway system is great for for anybody, from beginner to expert.
Directions, Parking & Regulations
Camp Nelson State Park, 6614 Danville Rd, Nicholasville, KY 40356, is a great place to launch and explore the sandstone cliffs in nearby Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve. Three are dozens of other spots to put in. This document from Kentucky.gov has an extensive list of put in boat launches.
Time to Complete: 4 hours
Distance: There are different parts with multiple entries and exits, so you can paddle anywhere from 3-100 miles. The Kentucky River is a main tributary, so many creeks flow into it.
Seasonality: Paddling is good here all year; the Palisades have high water in spring, so be cautious for flooding. Ideal times are summer and fall.
Fees: Some of the boat ramps have a $5 launch fee, but other ramps don’t require any payment.
Dog Friendly: Yes
GPS Coordinates: Camp Nelson (section is about 10 miles to high bridge boat ramp), main Palisades Park section. High bridge section Cummins Ferry.