Canoeing and kayaking have a rabid following here that may even rival bourbon, horse racing and basketball, and it continues to grow each year. People love getting on the water, and with good reason! It’s a great way to spend a summer day, and there are several fantastic places nearby to canoe. Today, we’re excited to share our favorite destinations for canoeing near Louisville, but first things first! Before you hit the water and embark on your  adventure, here are some safety basics to keep in mind. You should:

  • Know how to swim.
  • Never boat alone.
  • Always wear a life jacket.

These tips may seem like no-brainers, but they always bear repeating. All right, now that we’ve covered the serious points, let’s get to the good stuff!

Kentucky is chock-full of seemingly never-ending waterways, so take your pick: rippling streams, calm lakes or fierce whitewater rivers. Here is our list of the best canoe spots within a 90-minute drive of Louisville:

Harrods Creek

Drive time: 20 minutes

Harrods Creek manages to remain secluded and almost unspoiled in its rugged setting, despite being a short, 20-minute drive from the city lights. The consistent and calm water level makes this waterway ideal for beginners. Nachand Canoe & Kayak has everything you need to get started. They are open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you want to come earlier or stay later, just give them a call and they will make it happen.

Where to rent: Nachand Canoe & Kayak Rental, 6313 River Road, Louisville • (502) 753-9271 

Great Canoeing around Louisville-Harrods Creek

A lone kayaker heads out for a calm paddle down Harrods Creek. Image credit: Nachand Canoe & Kayak Rental

Parklands of Floyds Fork

Drive time: 24 minutes

The nonprofit 21st Century Parks has created a public park system comprised of four parks along the Floyds Fork Creek, a tributary of the Salt River. All four of the parks at the Parklands of Floyds Fork are connected by a 19-mile recreational trail. With some access points near Valhalla Golf Course, you can finish up on the green and then paddle through Beckley Creek Park. The only catch is you have to have your own canoe, as there is no rental provider on Floyds Fork.

There are no rentals available. Bring your own canoe.

Canoeing in Louisville-Parklands of Floyds Fork

Happy paddlers! Image Credit: Parklands of Floyds Fork

Blue River 

Drive time: 42 minutes

Across the Ohio River lies the Blue River, Indiana’s first scenic river. With almost 100 miles of natural beauty and wildlife, the Blue River provides a plethora of recreational opportunities.

Cave Country Canoes operates from May 1 to October 31. They have a fleet of 345 canoes and 150 kayaks, plus buses and vans available to transport guests from the rental spot to access points. Each canoe can seat two to three passengers and has extra space for a pet or cooler. They offer multiple trip packages: half day, full day and even two-day trips, so there’s something for every skill set and time frame.

Where to rent: Cave Country Canoes, 112 W. Main St., Milltown, IN 47145  • (812) 365-2705

Canoeing Near Louisville-Blue River

A group session takes in all that Mother Nature has to offer on the Blue River. Image credit: Jason Meredith

Nolin River

Drive time: 1 hour

Nolin Lake is a popular weekend getaway for many Louisvillians. But have you checked out the Nolin River? Nolin River is a serene float through a pristine forest. Unique rock formations and mild rapids keep your senses sharp as you paddle through. You can rent life jackets and paddles from Nolin River Canoe, and the best part is they also provide drop-off and pickup and loading and unloading. There are multiple routes available, depending on how long you want to be on the water. Have your cameras ready, because they all come with jaw-dropping scenery.

Where to rent: Nolin River Canoe, 565 Fields Lane, Clarkson 42726 • (502) 554-3113

Canoeing near Louisville-Nolin River

Enjoy beautiful scenery and mild rapids on Nolin River. Image credit: Nolin River Canoe

Green River

Drive time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

The Green River has excellent opportunities for any water sport you can imagine. Coursing more than 30 miles through Mammoth Cave National Park, hours of fun await on the water.

Employing the services of Mammoth Cave Canoe & Kayak is a great way to take in the beauty of both the Green River and Mammoth Cave National Park. There are a variety of trips available to fit anyone’s desire and skill level, ranging from three-hour paddle tours to multiple-day camping excursions.

Where to rent: Mammoth Cave Canoe & Kayak, 1240 Mammoth Cave Road, Cave City 42127  • (877) 592-2663 

Canoeing near Louisville-Green River

The Green River provides a day of family-friendly fun. Image credit: U.S. Department of the Interior

Rough River

Drive time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Don’t let the name fool you; the Rough River isn’t very rough. You can enjoy unspoiled beauty on the gentle waves on Rough River. This popular vacation destination is perfect for boating, fishing, camping and canoeing. There are many access points, so there’s no excuse not to have a relaxing paddle down the (not so rough) river. You’ll want to bring your own canoe and gear, because there is not a paddle rental provider on Rough River.

There are no rentals available. Bring your own canoe.

Image Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Paddlers of many skill sets take to the water for a beautiful paddle down the Rough River.  Image credit: US Army Corps of Engineers

Special thanks to the guys at Quest Outdoors for imparting their canoeing wisdom to us for this article.