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Upper Cumberland River

The Upper Cumberland River begins in southeastern Kentucky and flows west through the small communities of Pineville, Barbourville, and Williamsburg before entering into Daniel Boone National Forest and flowing over the Cumberland Falls. The Upper Cumberland River above the falls is fairly remote, with the upper most section consisting of primarily riffle/run habitat and gradually turning into riffle/run/pool habitat the further you move downstream. There are mild rapids throughout this portion of the Upper Cumberland River so research into the section of the river you are floating should be done before making any trip. Cobble, boulders, and bedrock are the main substrates found in the river as it flows from its source at the confluence of Poor Fork and Clover Fork downstream and into Lake Cumberland. Anglers fishing the Upper Cumberland can look forward to quality channel catfish, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and walleye.

 

 

 

 

 


Upper Cumberland River Access Site to Site Mileages

Put In Access Site

Take Out Access Site

Total River Miles

Varilla Ramp 4 Mile Ramp 13.8
4 Mile Ramp Artemus Rock Access 9.8
Artemus Rock Access Barbourville Ramp 5.1
Barbourville Ramp Williamsburg Ramp 45.2
Williamsburg Ramp Redbird Ramp 11.5

 

 


 
 

Recommended River Levels for Boating/Fishing*

Upper Cumberland River at Williamsburg, KY
Rating Gauge Height in Feet (ft) Flow in cubic feet per second (cfs)
Low <3.0 ft <300 cfs
Good 3.0-3.8 ft 300-700 cfs
High >3.8 ft >700 cfs
*These ratings are only recommendations. Skill and experience will dictate level appropriate for each angler.

Resources for River Levels:

U.S. Geological Survey
(Provides real time stream flows on rivers and streams around the state)


Current Stream Levels On Upper Cumberland River @ Williamsburg, KY

 

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Upper Cumberland River Public Access Site Descriptions

 

Varilla Ramp: (Additional Information/Directions)

 

This single lane concrete boat ramp is located about nine miles east of Pineville, KY. From Pineville head south on US-25E for one mile, then turn left onto US-119 N/Harlan Rd for about eight miles. At the bottom of a hill just before crossing over Watts Creek there will be signage for a state owned boat ramp on the south side of the road, take your next right and follow it back to the boat ramp. A small, gravel parking area for around 8 vehicles is located at the top of the ramp, however, there are no other amenities available at this location. The section of river at this site is best suited for canoes, kayaks, bank anglers and wade fishing.

 


 

4 Mile Ramp: (Additional Information/Directions)

 

This single lane concrete ramp is located just north of Pineville, KY. To get to the ramp head north on US-25E for 3.5 miles, take a left onto KY-92 W and then a sharp right on State Hwy 2014. The ramp is located under the US-25E bridge. A large, gravel parking lot is located at the top of the ramp, however, there are no other amenities available at this location. This site is suitable for john boats, canoes, kayaks and bank fishing. Be advised that caution should be taken in boats and paddle craft as a low head damn located three quarters of a mile downstream of the ramp.

 


 

Artemus Rock Access: (Additional Information/Directions)

 

 

This gravel/dirt access is located just south of Artemus, KY. From Artemus, head south on Old Railroad Ln, turn right onto KY-3441 for half a mile then turn right onto a gravel path and make your way down to a large gravel bar that is exposed at flows acceptable for paddling and fishing. Be advised that the path down to the river is rough, muddy, and may not be suitable for all vehicles. No other amenities are available at this location.

 


 

Barbourville Ramp: (Additional Information/Directions)

 

This concrete ramp is located at Thompson Park in Barbourville, KY. Paved parking is available at the top of the ramp. Other amenities found at this access site include lighted ramp and parking, RV campground with full hook-ups, walking track, and playground. This site is suitable for small john boats, canoes, kayaks, and wading. Be advised that caution should be taken when heading downstream as there are several small rapids that form during periods of low flow.

 


 

Williamsburg Ramp: (Additional Information/Directions)

 

This single lane concrete ramp access is situated next to the Main Street Bridge and Cumberland Falls Highway (25W) in Williamsburg. Amenities at this site include paved parking and a picnic area available at the top of the ramp. This site is suitable for small john boats, canoes, kayaks, and bank fishing.

 

Redbird Ramp: (Additional Information/Directions)

 

This single lane concrete ramp is located 5 miles northwest of Williamsburg, KY. From Williamsburg head north on KY-204/ Red Bird Rd for 4.5 miles, keep straight onto KY-478 for half a mile and the ramp will be located on the right side. A large, paved parking area for around 25 vehicles is located at the top of the ramp, however, there are no other amenities available at this location. The section of river at this site is best suited for john boats, canoes, kayaks, and bank anglers.

 

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Fishing Tips

Channel Catfish
Target deeper pools and tight bends in the river with log jams and slow to moderate current. Fish baits like chicken livers, worms, cut bait, and stink baits suspended or on the bottom. Best luck would be around dusk and dawn or low light conditions when catfish are more active.
Spotted Bass
Anglers have good luck fishing crawfish imitating soft plastic baits Texas-rigged, medium running crank baits, spinners and a variety of top water baits in areas with current breaks and woody debris. Match bait colors to the water conditions: natural patterns work best in clearer water (white, watermelon seed), while in muddier conditions use dark (black) or very bright (chartreuse) colored baits that produce vibration.
Walleye
Try fishing buck-tail jigs with minnows or a curly-tailed grub bumping the bottom in back eddies and near the current. Metal jigging and blade baits and bright colored crank baits also work in these areas.
Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth bass can be found through the Russell Fork, but areas directly above and below gravel shoals will produce the most and best quality fish. Rocky banks with current and depth are also a solid option. The majority of bass tackle will work, but crawfish imitations, 3 ½ inch tube jigs, and 3 or 4 inch curly tail grubs are the best options here.
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Fisheries Overview

 

The following length frequencies are representative of the top 4 species sampled in Levisa Fork.

Channel Catfish length frequency graph 

 

Kentucky Spotted Bass length frequency graph 

 

Walleye Length frequency graph 

 

Smallmouth Bass Length frequency graph 

  

 

 

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