Ohio - Falls of the Ohio - Upper (1 mile)

Ohio, Indiana, US/Kentucky, US


Falls of the Ohio - Upper (1 mile)

Usual Difficulty II(IV) (varies with level)
Length 1 Miles
Avg. Gradient 22 fpm
Max Gradient 22 fpm

Jim Gunn Falls of the Ohio

Jim Gunn Falls of the Ohio

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03294500 12.00 - 55.00 ft IV 00h18m 37.27 ft (running)

River Description

The Falls of the Ohio is one of the most distinctive paddling locations in the United States. Within sight of downtown Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the premier high flow runs.

The Falls were originally a series of rapids formed by the exposure of a Devonian era coral reef which existed 350 million years ago. It is the world's largest exposed reef of this period. Today the McAlpine Locks and Dam control the river and expose the fossil bed along the Indiana shoreline. As water is released from the Upper Tainter Dam it flows over the exposed bed providing big water fun from (approximately) November till June. At higher water, the exploding waves appear, giving paddlers a quick, crazy ride from the dam down to the interpretive center.

The Falls of the Ohio is a National Wildlife Conservation Area. Please do not disturb any birds nesting or remove fossils. For more information see the Falls of the Ohio State Park website.

Take Exit 0 from I-65 and follow signs to the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center. No shuttle for this fun, the interpretive center is both the Put in and Takeout. Just walk down the stairs to the river. Note:The State park is now charging a fee to park, you may avoid the fee by parking upstream under the railroad bridge.

There is also a Lower Falls of the Ohio site 1 mile down stream that is accessed via the clark boat ramp.

Map and Description:
Putting in at the Interpretive center, a long eddy allows paddlers to make their way to the gates. From there cross the very large eddy line and enjoy the waves below. Be careful as wood often collects along the eddy line. Swims can be very long at the Falls; at higher levels, swimmers may be in the water for over a mile before they can reach the Indiana shore.

At lower levels the fossil bed becomes exposed along the KY side and one can ferry across the 1600ft wide river section to access additional playspots.

StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2009-04-07 17:52:34


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Eddy LineHazard Photo
0.1Right Indiana WavePlayspot Photo
0.1Triple WavesPlayspot Photo
0.1Kentucky Side WavePlayspot Photo
0.1Big WavePlayspot Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Eddy Line

Eddy Line

Eddy Line

The eddy line at the dam is very strong, it can give even the best paddlers trouble at times.

Right Indiana Wave

Surfing Right Wave : Falls of the Ohio

Surfing Right Wave : Falls of the Ohio
Photo of Kyle Nicholson by Kyle Nicholson taken 03/19/05 @ 19.5

Usually is in play between 19' and 20' of pool. The wave pushs towards IN, so keep the bow towards Kentucky.

Triple Waves

Triple Waves

Triple Waves
Photo of UnKnown by Kyle Underwood

Indiana side just downstream of the Far Right Indiana Wave. Water level is lower then when the Right Indiana Wave appears.

Kentucky Side Wave

Kentucky Wave

Kentucky Wave
Photo of Kyle Nicholson

Walk up above the Pit on the Kentucky side, a great Medium sized glassy wave appears around 15' of pool. Beware a very large hole waits 100ft below. Punch the hole on the Kentucky side.

Big Wave

Ben Surfin a Big Wave

Ben Surfin a Big Wave
Photo by Kyle Nicholson

Walk up the Kentucky side, and ferry hard towards Indiana behind the large Diagonal at the Dam. Best levels are aroun 17' of Pool.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 19 2012 (2438 days ago)
DavieIndy (154479)
Ran this on 5/19/12, 22ft was the gauge. It was very pushy and unpredictable waves from all
directions. Fun, yes, but the currant was very strong today and if you are not careful you will go
pretty far down river..I would suggest only experienced paddlers go here.