The class III whitewater section of the Upper Cumberland River starts at Cumberland Falls with 5 miles of moving water and 5 miles of flat on Lake Cumberland's headwaters. The takeout is the Mouth of the Laurel River Boat ramp aka Noe's Dock. Lake Cumberland covers the last few rapids in this section during summer pool, making the best rapids come in during 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.
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.
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 and there is potential pinning spot where a beginner boater could get themselves into trouble.
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
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.
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.
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. This rapid notoriously collects wood in it so boat scout before making the entrance move into it.
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.
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 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
STAY RIGHT AT LAST DROP!!! I want to report a HAZARDOUS strainer in the Last Drop Rapid. We ran this Saturday November 2, 2019. Williamsburg guage read 1,750 cfs. Actual flow was approximately 3,000 cfs according a couple of local raft guides whe were in our group of 9 kayaks. There is wood pinned up against Pillow Rock on left side. At 3,000 cfs the wood was not apparent when we scouted from the river right bank. When going left of Pillow Rock I didn't notice the wood until I was almost on top of it. It was also creating a VERY sticky hole that was hidden behind it. I punched through and was surfed backwards for a few seconds before I was able to paddle out with some hard foward strokes. After punching through another hole on the left side bwtween 2 more rocks I was through. It turned out another person in our group took the left line ahead of me as well and ended up swmiming, but not before getting window shaded on the hole created by the strainer which also slammed his head on something below that protruded like a think branch hitting him on the back of his neck below his helmet. Luckily, he was just sore for a couple of days. At this level a swim above the feature on left slot would be deadly. At lower water this could easily be a terminal pin spot for a boater. I would also upgrade this rapid to a class IV based on that deadly strainer. STAY RIGHT...at least for now.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Has anyone ever hucked the falls?
Great River! 10.5 miles of water, 3 or 4 rapids, the rest was flatwater. I won't be running this one again....
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.
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!
The paddle out took an hour and a half when the lake was at winter pool.
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.
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Jess running screaming right
IK wipe out on Screaming right hand rapid
Looking up river at the top of Last Drop, closer view
Looking up river at the top of Last Drop
Is there a little Captin in You?
Drain plugs would be nice
Showin us how its done
Dad lovin life
Alex gives the hot tub two thumbs up
My hero in a Super Hero
Kirsten and Dad running mainline at Screaming Right
Codi running top drop Center Rock
Scott and Stumpy
Grilling out river style
Good Friends at Screaming Right
Codi Foley running Screaming Right
Running Last Drop
Chads First Run on CBF
Lower part of pinball
Top of last drop
Middle of Stairsteps
River Trip 2006
Steve and Beth Wiggley
Mandy Williams at Cumberland Falls
Dave Wisner at Screaming Right
Mandy Williams at Screaming Right
Dave at the bottom of the falls
Steve and Beth at screaming right
Center rock from up high
Screaming Right (high water & low lake)
Running Screaming Right
Doug Simpson and Jason Foley
Jason Foley at Surfing Rapid
Doug Simpson and Crew
Gordon Byrd hands paddling at Center Rock
Dr. Keith Woodward
Dr. Keith Woodward at Center Rock
Keith Woodward and Jason Foley surfing it up on the Cumberland River
Gordon Byrd launching 18' below Cumberland Falls
Gordon Byrd at Screaming Right
Jake gets eaten by Screaming Right
Haleigh Byrd running Screaming Right
Gordon at Screaming Right
Adam at Screaming Right
Adam Thomas at Screaming Right Hand Rapid
Gordon Byrd at Surfers Rapid
Omer Hall and Jason Foley surfing it up on the Cumberland
Gordon Byrd hands paddling Surfing Rapid on the Cumberland River in Ky.
Screaming Right-Hand Rapid
Haleigh Byrd at Screaming Right Hand Rapid
Gordon Byrd at Screaming Right Hand Rapid
Herbie at Screaming Right Hand Rapid
Move over Jeremy
Karl Whipp at Surfers
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