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Difficulty III+(IV)
Length 10.5 Miles
Gauge CUMBERLAND RIVER AT WILLIAMSBURG, KY
Flow Range 400 - 16000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 44 minutes ago 648 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/01/2014 12:32 pm

River Description


This is the whitewater section of the Upper Cumberland River. The 10 mile run is Cumberland Falls the Mouth of the Laurel River Boat ramp aka Noe's Dock. Lake Cumberland covers the last few rapids in this section during its summer pool, making the late summer/early fall season as they draw down for winter pool the optimal time to run it. Levels vary, but 705 feet and lower on Lake Cumberland make for all the rapids to be in. This normally coincides with mid-August to September in the drawdown cycle.

In January 2007 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced an emergency drawdown of Lake Cumberland, which is watered by the Cumberland River Watershed.  After 7 years and nearly $1 billion dollars the dam repairs were reported by the USACE to have been completed.  The lake will resume its normal summer pool level of 723 feet above sea level in Spring of 2014.  If you have paddled this river in the past 7 years there are some significant rapids that will be inundated below the pool level, possibly including Screaming Right, Stairsteps, Last Drop and Bark Camp Creek Wash.  This will obviously create a much longer, ~4.5 mile flat paddle to the takeout at the Mouth of the Laurel River which takes about 1 1/2 hours to paddle. 

 

Rapid Descriptions

Put In

Class - Mile - 0
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The put in is right below Cumberland Falls State Park. Park at the Falls parking lot and walk between the two buildings and veer right to find the upper most cobblestone path and follow it all the way down to the sandy beach.From interstate 75 exit 25 in Corbin take 25W west approx 10 miles to highway 90 and follow the signs another 6 miles to Cumberland Falls State Park. See the Cumberland Shuttle Map

Initiation

Class - II Mile - 0.5
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Small wave train right down the middle. With a shallow hole on the right side entrance.

Center Rock

Class - III Mile - 1

A two tiered drop with large eddies in between. The first being a basic wave/hole leading you straight into the second. The second drop is where it gets its name beacuse of the huge boulder in the middle of the river creating a nice splat/spin spot and pillows. There are currently large tree sized logs in both the right and left sides of the first drop.  Boat scout and run in the middle.  While the left and right mini slots are sieved there have been reports of the Center Rock itself being undercut but I have seen it at less than 100CFS it is not appearant,  proceed with caution.  

Misery

Class - II+ Mile - 2
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Straight down the middle wave train that virtually goes unnoticed. It gets its name from river guides at low water. At high water the eddies are very strong here. At 23500 a 20' curler wave forms from left bank curling right.

Bradfords Rock

Class - II+ Mile - 2.5

A pretty straight forward rapid except for the huge undercut on river center-right. The rock is more undercut on each end than in the middle.  At most levels over 800 CFS it is a tasters choice, (go where you want), it is shallow across the entire river and the slot on the left of the undercut feeds into it somewhat if you take that line.  At low levels right is the only line.

Willie Nelson's

Class - II+ Mile - 3
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This one gets its name because just like Willie Nelson it sounds much better than it looks. Boofing spots galore on river left but beware there is at least one human sized pothole in this rapid. Straight down the middle is the conventional line.

Dog Slaugter shoals

Class - II Mile - 3.4
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Coming in just downstream of the biggest tributary (Dogslaughter Creek) on the section this is a very un-noteworthy rapid except undercuts on the right and left. The right one is big as a two story house and the one on the left is much smaller but will pull you in from the current blowing into it. The left undercut currently has strained out with large trees and a canoe. You can't miss the only two big boulders in the section they are the ones to avoid, right down the middle. At low water (below 400CFS) far left and directly in front of the undercut is the only route.

Surfers

Class - II+ Mile - 3.8
River wide hole that is the best play on the entire river. Great for spins, 360's and learning surfers. The river right side is more of a deeper hole and the left is the best eddy. It is head knocking shallow here so don't even think of that upstream brace! Good eddies on each side make it nice to stay and play all day!

Pinball

Class - III Mile - 4

This is a fun rapid but at low water has both a pinning slot and a two-sided broach pin hazard in the middle/main drop.  Scout from the river left eddy above the drop or on the left bank and avoid the pin spot by running down the middle. At flows above 12000 CFS this rapid has two incredible holes for big air play right in the middle.  During spring its common for the bottom of this rapid to be flooded by the lake and the water coming in from the river.  This rapid is fully in when Lake Cumberland reaches 718 ft in elevation

Screaming Right

Class - III+ Mile - 4.2

A great first teacher of technicality at lower levels but a humoungus munchy riverwide hole between levels of 1800-2500 CFS. Be careful and scout when this rapid is in. This is the first of the lake rapids that require Lake Cumberland to be below winter pool Screaming right rears its head when Lake Cumberland's pool drops below 717 feet of elevation but the rapid itsel has an additional 4-5 of elevation to completely be in.

Stairsteps

Class - III Mile - 5

A great big water style rapid with several offset holes and one really great catch on the fly wave. Pretty much down the middle and be prepared to punch some holes. Another under the lake rapid untill around the first of August when the lake pool gets down to around 710 feet in eleveation.

Last Drop

Class - III+ Mile - 5.3

A great rapid at all levels but many munchy holes at the bigger levels including a terminal hole in the middle of the river, dynamic boiling eddies and large pillows are common. At medium-low levels river left is the desired route. This upgrades to a IV at levels 5000 CFS and above. This rapid is inundated by Lake Cumberlands summer pool and only comes in during the late summer draw down in mid-late August at 706 feet in elevation. 

Bark Camp Creek Shoals

Class - II+ Mile - 7.5
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This rapid is under water and only in when Lake Cumberland pool is below 690 ft. Its a straight forward rapid with a nice hidden surfing wave in the middle.  

Take-out

Class - N/A Mile - 10
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From the end of the whitewater to the take-out is 4+ miles of flat water depending upon the season and Lake Cumberland's pool elevation. This paddle out takes about1.5 hours depending on the water level. The current can only help you if the river is running 1000CFS or more, with less its a longer paddle.

The Sheltowee Trace Outfitters offers a tow out May - September when they have raft trips.

The take out is at the Mouth of the Laurel River boat ramp. From interstate 75 exit 25 in Corbin take 25W west approx 5 miles to 1193/1277. 1193 turns right and 1277 dead ends at the take out. Click here for a link to the shuttle: Cumberland Shuttle Map
 

Comments

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Rick S
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2 years ago

3 of us ran this on August 26, 2017 @ 2000 cfs then the next day @ approx. 1800 cfs. We took the Sheltowee Trace Outfitter's ride in and ride out with the rafting expedition. We had a perfect sunny day for paddling with water temps in the high 60's F. This was out first time paddling this river, and we had a blast! Center Rock was moving quicker at lower water on the 2nd day and had a crispy eddy line. Bradford's Rock is pretty easy to avoid the under-cut rock on right. The under-cut rock on river Left @Dog Slaughter Shoals was a bit more treacherous as the current feeds strongly into it @2000 cfs (and above I would guess). One of our boaters was nearly pinned there. She was able to work herself off to the Right side of the pinning rock before flipping and getting washed downstream. Not exactly sure what happened in this instance. Though the current feeds into the undercut it is fairly easy to recognize and avoid. Don't stare at the hazard, rather where you want to go All 3 of us flipped on Screaming Right the 1st day. The 2nd day we all took a different line...only one of us made it without flipping. The first day we weren't sure which rapids we were on after the Center Rock because the descriptions of how far the rapid is into the trip are completely wrong! I used my Garmin Montana 680 on both runs and here are the actual mileage of the rapids: No Name (class II) 0.3 Initiation 0.5 miles Center Rock 1.0 miles Misery 1.27 miles Bradford's Rock 1.62 miles Willie Nelson's 2.10 miles Dog Slaughter Shoals 2.97 miles Surfers 2.74 miles Pinball 3.44 miles Screaming Right 3.75 miles Stairsteps 4.2 miles the Last Drop 4.5 miles All of the rapids were in on our trip except the Last Drop which was still covered by Lake Cumberland. On the 2nd day we took a side-trip-hike up to Dog Slaughter Falls It is about a 1/3 of a mile hike with some nice scenery and a waterfall you can play and swim in. It took us a little over 2 hours to run the rapids part of the river and paddle to the riverboat buoy. The river boat ride is just under an hour once they get all the rafts and kayaks loaded. For an extra $10 you can eat at the buffet on the riverboat. It is just cold-cuts, chips, and potato salad with soda, but it did in a pinch and satisfied our hunger.

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Stephen Pickard
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3 years ago

Usgs has a gage at Cumberland River at Cumberland Falls that has been collecting data for 105 years. The discharge from this gage is much more accurate for flow if you are interested in running from Cumberland Falls to Mouth of Laurel than the Williamsburg gage. The Williamsburg gage would be your choice if putting in at Williamsburg. If you go to our website you can see actual measured discharge ( red dots) on the discharge graph. The graph will go back 120 days if you want to compare what the discharge was and what you thought it was on the day you took the trip.

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Andrew Van Horn
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3 years ago

I ran this one with my older brother and we had a blast for the first few miles. After that it was a very long paddle to the take out. The flow was at 434cfs and the lake level was at 720. A fun run but the lake paddle did indeed take a while with the strong head wind we paddled against.

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Kevin
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8 years ago

John Grace and Nate Helms ran the falls. It's supposed to be recorded on LVM #37 "The Last Dwarf Drops His Drawers". Last I heard it's illegal...and not so intelligent.

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Jake boggs
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8 years ago

Has anyone ever hucked the falls?

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Brandon Hughett
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9 years ago

Great River! 10.5 miles of water, 3 or 4 rapids, the rest was flatwater. I won't be running this one again....

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Kevin
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11 years ago

When the lake is filled again there are two possibilities of a takeout about 3-4 miles before the boat ramp at devil's creek and bark camp creek. Devils creek is an old road that would require a 4x4 outfitted for aggressive situations and bark camp is a 1/4 mile up hill hike back to the road. I had directions posted for devils creek, but thought best not to advise this one. Bark camp can be accessed via 1277, left onto FR 193, first right onto FR 551 and go to the end of the gravel. Trail will continue downhill. Otherwise, just paddle to the ramp.

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Will Crimmins
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12 years ago

Myself and two friends paddled the cumberland river this past weekend and learned two things. One, to find the take out you must turn left on 1193 when headed east on 25 to find 1277 and the take out. Secondly, Last Drop is a bit tricky when the river is running at 5000cfs or more. My friend had to wet exit at the top of the rapid and was pushed into the boulder mid stream where he was temporarily pinned then continued to river left of the first big boulder to a second boulder which he was pinned on then sucked underneath giving me the impression that the boulder is undercut. When looking downstream from up above last drop @5000+ cfs, you see a huge boulder where the main river flow hits, to the left of that main boulder its the second boulder over that is undercut. Please use caution when running this rapid!

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Bill Lynch
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12 years ago

The paddle out took an hour and a half when the lake was at winter pool.

Gage Descriptions

The current gauge is the USACE Williamsburg station gauge which lies 17 miles upstream. Note that it takes the water at least half a day to get from Williamsburg to the Falls. The min suggested is the lowest level for fun but can be ran down to about 200 CFS before hell takes over. Levels above 10000 CFS could make for really long swims. The highest level it has known to be paddled is 23,500 CFS and was a wild big water ride.

Directions Description


We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

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Jason Foley

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1203529 07/01/14 Jason Foley
1190450 05/21/07 Jason Foley Updated the Pinball rapid with a hazard sign and the 2-point pin info.
1203530 07/01/14 Jason Foley