Green and Nolin Rivers Blueway
The Green and Nolin Rivers Blueway, mostly inside Mammoth Cave
National Park but also within Edmonson County and the Nolin Lake Tailwater in
south-central Kentucky, includes 36 miles of navigable waterway and 7 public
access sites. The 36 miles of navigable waterway and 7 public access sites of
the Green and Nolin Rivers Blueway are located predominantly within Mammoth
Cave National Park and Edmonson County including the Nolin Lake Tailwater.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park is heralded as Kentucky's oldest tourist attraction and serves as an anchor for this first segment of a wider regional blueway proposed along the upstream and downstream mileage of the Green River from this project. The purpose of Mammoth Cave National Park is to preserve, protect, interpret and study the internationally-recognized biological and geologic features and processes associated with the longest cave system in the world.
The park’s caves, scenic river valleys, bluffs, forests, and abundant wildlife draw visitors to the park. The park offers ranger-led cave tours and surface walks, camping, hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, scenic drives, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, accessible trails and picnicking. This breadth of activities is available because Mammoth Cave National Park is a park on two levels – a reclaimed hardwood forest and riverways above and complex cave systems below.
The seven public access launches for the Green and Nolin Rivers Blueway offer the paddler several amenities. These include camping, picnic shelters, public restrooms, wildlife observation, fishing, hiking, and information signage. All sites include boat launches and parking.
The Green River is the most biologically diverse branch of the Ohio River System, and one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the United States. The largest river basin in Kentucky, the Green drains an area of more than 9,200 square miles as it meanders from east to west for more than 300 miles in south central Kentucky. The flowing water of the Green River is the most dominant force in shaping the regional landscape, characterized by deep valleys and well-incised meanders cutting through the terrain. The Green is an ancient channel, predating the earliest cave development. Ultimately, water in the caves drain to the Green River, creating important streams. Those cave streams inside the park and the park’s underground drainage basins are designated as Outstanding State Resource Waters. The Green River is designated an Outstanding State Resource Water and a State Wild River, providing significant scenic and recreational opportunities.
The Green River is the master stream controlling the geologic development of Mammoth Cave and its world-class karst ecosystem. Springs along Green River provide opportunities to experience the intersection between surface and subsurface environments. Within the park, the Green River bisects two physiographic regions and supports one of the most biodiverse aquatic communities in North America.
The Nolin River is a 104-mile-long tributary of the Green River in central Kentucky in the United States. Via the Green and Ohio rivers, it is a part of the watershed of the Mississippi River. The Nolin River is formed in western Larue County by the confluence of its short North and South Forks, both of which flow for their entire lengths in Larue County; the North Fork flows past Hodgenville, Kentucky. The Nolin then flows generally southwestwardly through or along the boundaries of Hardin, Grayson, Hart and Edmonson counties located in Kentucky. It joins the Green River in the western part of Mammoth Cave National Park, about 2 miles northeast of Brownsville.
Ecological Significance and Abundance of Wildlife
The Green and Nolin rivers possess some of the most diverse fish (more than 80 species) and invertebrate fauna (more than 50 species of mussels, including 7 federally-endangered species) populations in North America. The combination of the topographic variety associated with the karst landscape and the temperate climate of the region provides a number of ecological niches that support an exceptionally diverse assemblage of more than 1,300 vascular flora species, including unusual communities.