Gunpowder Creek - Camp Ernst Road to Dale Williamson Rd. (7.5 miles)

Gunpowder Creek, Kentucky, US


Camp Ernst Road to Dale Williamson Rd. (7.5 miles)

Usual Difficulty II+(III) (varies with level)
Length 7.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 25 fpm
Max Gradient 35 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03277075 250 - 3000 cfs I-II 01h10m 20.8 cfs (too low)
Probably too low for any meaningful whitewater experience.

River Description

Gunpowder Creek is located in Boone County and flows out of Florence, KY (and the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati Airport) west through a Boy Scout camp (Camp Ernst), and on to the Ohio River.  Like many of the Greater Cincinnati area creeks, this one's difficulty changes with the flow.  Below 1500 cfs, this creek is a nice little Class II run with some easy surf and play spots.  Above 1500 cfs, the speed of the water is quite fast and some 5-6 foot standing waves form in several of the rapids.  Some of the waves are quite wide as well.  The difficulty doesn't get much above Class II+ (maybe Class III- with some of the bigger waves at high water), but several blind turns into strainers make for some Class IV consequences.

Overall, it averages about 40-50 feet wide, and the banks are tree-lined with lots of big sycamore trees. It is very pretty, and very little sign of civilization can be seen anywhere along the run. Camp Ernst on river right will probably be the only buildings you see.

The best rapid of the run is at the nature preserve (Powerline) and can be identified by a powerline clearing on either side of the river.  Busy water and some surfing spots are scattered throughout.  This area is a wood collector, so keep your head on a swivel and take your time to avoid the many dangerous strainers that can accumulate in this area.  The nature preserve is also an alternate take-out if you want to skip the 4+ miles of mostly flat, moving water after this (take-out river right).  Be warned if you take out at the nature preserve - the hike out is up a substantial hill (you climb 200+ feet in less than a half mile...most of it at the end of the hike).

There are some things to consider before running this creek.  1)  Out of all the Great Cincinnati area creeks, this one comes up the quickest.  If you are looking to run Gunpowder, you want to be on the river when the rain stops.  2)  It flashes very fast and drops very fast.  Understand that the flow routinely jumps 500+ cfs per hour during a moderate rain.  A 300 cfs trip and very quickly turn into a 2000 cfs trip.  3)  There have previously been concerns about pollution in the creek.  These concerns cannot totally be disregarded, but information from KY officials suggest it's not worse or better than any of the other local creeks.  Having a hearty immune system doesn't hurt either.  Wildlife is abundant in the area (Great Blue Herrons, King Fishers, hawks, deer, and fish), so the water quality has improved over the past 10-20 years.

Possible alternate put-ins are upstream:  1) at the end of Running Fox Road (between the two houses in the cul-de-sac) is actually County owned propery, 2) Woodcreek Drive bridge (actually on South Fork of Gunpowder Creek), and 3) South Fork Park (also located on the SF of Gunpowder Creek; be mindful of a possible low-head dam here).  Upstream might be a better option as the access points are public land and will probably add some fast-moving, fun water.  As stated above, not much in the way of whitewater is present after the nature preserve.

Permit Information


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2013-12-23 01:46:04


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Bridge RapidIIPutin
1.0Twin WavesIIPlayspot
2.6Gunpowder Creek Nature PreserveN/ATakeout Access

Rapid Descriptions

Bridge Rapid (Class II)

Little rapid that can turn pretty big above 2000 cfs with some 5-6 foot waves.

Twin Waves (Class II, Mile 1.0)

As the name would suggest, a couple waves here that offer up some surfing opportunities.  An island split the river and you want to head towards the left (it's tight, check for wood).  The waves are there are pretty much any level.

Powerline (Class II+, Mile 2.5)

Nice boogie water at the top.  Nice surf hole after that.  Look for a tree root in the middle of the river.  There is usually an eddy behind this so you can take a look down the blind turn head towards the left.  Look for wood!!!  Head left and keep going around through the boogie.

Gunpowder Creek Nature Preserve (Class N/A, Mile 2.6)

Alternate take-out (river right).  Have fun hiking up 200+ feet in less than a half mile.

Take-Out (Class N/A, Mile 7.5)

Ask for permission at the driveway or find a place to park along the street.  Take-out on the right.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 19 2010 (2984 days ago)
Jeff JonesDetails
I live near this creek, as far as water quality goes, I,ve seen decent sized fish and my kids have
caught the biggest crawdads I,ve seen out of it. I practice rolls in here all the time and play on
the little wave about 100 yards from my house and have not had any ill effects from being in the
water. My mother in law has talked to a guy at KY division of water about this creek he said the
poop and jet fuel problem had been addressed. She had concerns about the kids playing in it.
August 5 2009 (3302 days ago)
Chris ShivelyDetails
We ran this 8-4-09 at 1000 cfs (droping 200cfs per hr) At this level it was a fun run with swift
moving water most of the way. It could be paddled up to 1500+cfs no problem. The largest waves were
2ft high and no danger but you will need some boat control. There were some large strainers about
1.5 miles into the run. There were previous post about poor water quality but that was not the
case. The creek was very muddy from all the runoff but clean and not smelly at all. Time 2009-08-05
03:56:00 GMT
August 14 2006 (4388 days ago)
x (1)
David"dagger"Schack - Spring flooding has changed the streambed of the mighty GUNPOWDER. At approx.
mile 2.5 one will encounter a delightful class -III wave/hole that offers great surfing all the way
down to 200 cfs. Ran it once at 175 and dropping and still pulled some sweet spins and whatnot. Oh
yeah, keep those eyes and mouth shut,unless u like the taste of poop/jet fuel(thanks to the
wonderful greater cinn. airport)

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