Whitewater Paddling in Boone Creek

Boone Creek is a small but wild stream, flowing over beautiful limestone bedrock hemmed in by tall rock gorges. It will make you feel like you’re in an otherworldly, untamed place, despite being only a few miles as the crow flies away from the city of Lexington. Be prepared to think quickly as you paddle your way through the stream’s many twists and turns until you exit on the Kentucky River. There’s an interesting history of the locks and dams on the Kentucky River, as well as the pioneering of the area, so be sure to check out the museums at Fort Boonesborough State Park


What Makes It Great


Paddle the scenic Boone Creek and experience a narrow, twisting stream surrounded by tall rock gorges, making you feel like you’re deep in the Kentucky wilderness. Be prepared to think quickly as you snake through blind corners with multiple rapids and small drops, all the while being funneled towards the Kentucky River.


The upper section of Boone Creek is narrow and twists through the rock, and once you pass the Iroquois Hunt Club, (the second put-in), the terrain gets steeper as the stream roars towards the Kentucky River. Feeder streams start to join up with Boone Creek, creating picturesque waterfalls that cascade down the rocky banks. At various points along the way, the stream widens and trees grow right on the shore. If you come during the spring, flowers dot the creek’s shores. 


Boone Creek’s narrow banks mean that it’s best to paddle during a medium flow when there are less river-wide obstructions. Consider avoiding this paddle at high flows, or just after a storm, since the river’s narrow banks make for a pretty intense ride. There’s also an issue with “strainers”, which are large items like trees, fences, or other debris that get washed down after a storm and stuck in the river. Make sure to scout the river and to pay close attention to any blockages that span the river from bank to bank, especially around blind corners- there have been a few instances of paddlers getting pinned by these and drowning. Sometimes it is possible to go under these river-wide barriers, but make sure you are comfortable with your rolls before taking on this stream. 


Your best overnight options are to grab a hotel room in Lexington, only half an hour away, or stay close to nature and camp at Fort Boonesborough State Park. The park has a few fishing lakes, and a history museum of the Kentucky River and pioneering days.


Who is Going to Love It


This stream is best for moderately experienced paddlers who are able to think quickly to avoid the obstacles that may appear around blind corners. It’s not a beginner stream, so make sure that you’re practiced in rolling and navigating rapids before attempting to run this section of Boone Creek.


Directions, Parking & Regulations


The first put-in is near the Blue Grass Christian Camp. Cross the bridge over Boone Creek on Athens-Boonesboro Road (KY-418), towards the Clark County side (east), and you’ll immediately see a small access road on your right. Park here rather than at the Christian Camp. 


The second put-in, by the hunting club, is at the bridge on Grimes Mill Road. There is some parking available here, but not a lot. 


The takeout is directly under the I-75/US-25 bridge, where there should be plenty of parking. Note that you’ll enter the Kentucky River from Boone Creek, and float down a short section of flatwater on the Kentucky River before getting to the take-out site.




Difficulty Rating: 3
There can be class II-III rapids.


Time to Complete: 4 hours
Expect to be out there for about half a day.


Distance: 6.3 miles
6.3 miles from the upper put-in to the take-out.


Seasonality: Spring, Fall
Spring and fall are best.


Fees: None 


Dog Friendly: No


GPS Coordinates:
Upper put-in: 37.931773, -84.339952
Lower put-in: 37.917529, -84.341218
Take-out: 37.883894, -84.340188 

Website: https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/654/

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