The karst topography surrounding the Green River in Hart County produces some of the highest water quality in Kentucky. Many springs empty into this stretch of the river that pump a constant flow of clean, cold water and give the river a color more reminiscent of the shallows of the Caribbean than south-central Kentucky.
The Green in this stretch is one of the most biologically diverse in the world, holding species only found in this river system. It holds 70 species of mussels. Some are extremely rare, once abundant in the Ohio Valley, but are now tenuously holding on to their presence on Earth in the Green. The strategic importance of the river also made it a theater of battle during the Civil War.
Two floats give visitors an intimate view of arguably the most scenic stretch of Green River. This section features river bluffs, islands, chutes, mild riffles and long deep holes, which are perfect for beginners or a family seeking a day away from the world.
The drive to the put-in and take-out locations may rival the scenic grandeur of the Green itself. This stretch also holds healthy, big smallmouth bass and some large muskellunge.
The first float begins at the Rio carry down access, a short distance down East Glen Lily Road off U.S. 31E, just past a power substation on the left. This float ends 8 miles downstream at Harry Wilson Park. The Green widens and slows in this stretch.
Many sandbars greet boaters in this section of the river and the flowing upper and lower reaches of these bars hold smallmouth bass. Fish the fallen tree tops and root wads in the deeper holes with a gold and black medium-running crankbait for muskellunge.
As the river flows downstream from Rio, paddlers round Thomas Bend and the estate of Confederate Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner who participated in the Battles of Munfordville and Perryville. Buckner also served as the 30th Governor of Kentucky. In the middle of Thomas Bend, Buckner Spring greets the Green River, forming an island that holds smallmouth bass in summer as well as an injection of cool water from the spring during wet periods.
The Green flows south and bends right under Boyd Knob before flowing to the take-out at Harry Wilson Park, off KY 2185. The entrance to the park lies in a sharp curve of the road and easy to miss. Johnson Spring meets the river right here.
The next 4-mile float begins at Harry Wilson Park and ends at Thelma Stovall Park, also called Green River Park, in Munfordville. This is an easy half-day float with short shuttles. Immediately downstream of the put-in, the river takes a hard left at Sims Bend and then flows again to the right. Anglers should target flowing water around the two large sandbars in the area for smallmouth bass.
After the last sandbar, the Green flows deeper with several fallen trees that hold bluegill and on occasion, muskellunge. Anglers may pick up a few crappie here as well. A final sandbar meets boaters just above the U.S. 31W Bridge.
The take-out lies a little downstream of the bridge on the right at the ramp in Thelma Stovall Park on River Road in downtown Munfordville, at what the pioneers called the Big Buffalo Crossing. This ancient crossing, used by Native Americans and bison for centuries, was also the site of Amos’ Ferry that operated for more than 100 years. A highway bridge made the ferry obsolete in 1907, but the old piers from this early bridge stand on both sides of the river at the ramp.
Visitors may combine a day of hiking along the Green with a paddle back to Munfordville by taking the 4 ½-mile Jenny Wilson Byrd Memorial Trail. The trail begins at Thelma Stovall Park and concludes at Harry Wilson Park. This trail features small bluffs, wildflowers, springs and continuous views of the river.
The Louisville and Nashville Railroad Bridge at Munfordville was vitally important for access to the interior of the upper South for both sides during the Civil War. A battle ensued Sept. 14 – 17, 1862 for control of this important bridge. The Union forces held out valiantly, inflicting heavy casualties on the officers of the Mississippi regiments attempting to take the bridge. The Union surrendered after an overwhelming Confederate force under Gen. Braxton Bragg advanced to Munfordville.
Visitors paddling Green River may also take a walking and cellphone tour of historic sites in downtown Munfordville and visit the Battle of the Bridge Historic Preserve.
Big Buffalo Crossing Canoe and Kayak Rentals offers canoe and kayak rentals, overnight floats with primitive camping and shuttles. This outfitter also provides floats and shuttles from the mouth of Lynn Camp Creek to Rio carry down access. This stretch contains the famous Three Hundred Springs, a series of small waterfalls that seem to flow from bushes on the side of a bluff. The Three Hundred Springs makes one of the unique spots paddlers will see in Kentucky, but they flow to a trickle during dry periods.
Munfordville Tourism Commission:
Big Buffalo Crossing Canoe and Kayak Rentals:
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Author Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.