Red - KY 746 to KY 715 (10.3 miles)

Red, Kentucky, US


KY 746 to KY 715 (10.3 miles) (Upper Red)

Usual Difficulty III (for normal flows)
Length 10.3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 14 fpm
Max Gradient 40 fpm

Falls of Red River

Falls of Red River
Photo by Ben Culbertson

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03282500 200 - 5000 cfs III 00h39m 536 cfs (running)
Upper limit uncertain. Please add a comment or report.

River Description

The Upper Red is a beautiful stretch of river which flows through the remote Clifty Wilderness Area of the Red River Gorge. There are often cliffs on both sides, and going around one bend you'll paddle underneath a rock amphitheater.

The difficulty level of this river varies a lot depending on water level. At low flows the river is suitable for advanced beginning kayakers. Tight maneuvering through boulders is required though, which would be difficult for a canoe. At high flows the rapids become more straightforward to navigate, though they are pushy and powerful, and some holes need to be avoided. Some rapids will need to be scouted because they disappear around a bend.

For more information, see Canoeing & Kayaking Guide to KY.

Karl Whipp testifies:
The Red River Gorge has a VERY tight upper section that requires a LOT of water (not a very large drainage) and is a class III run with a few nice ledges, etc. EXTREMELY remote. Once you're in, the only way out is downriver.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2004-04-26 09:03:16


Stream team editor

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
March 28 2017 (663 days ago)
Flunker (157983)
Be aware that the class III rating for this section does not necessarily hold true at 900+ cfs on
the Hazel Green guage. The big rapid in the narrows (falls section) is class IV ish at this level.
Today (5.1.16) the Hazel Green guage was at ~950 cfs (cresting) with significant additional flow
from tributary creeks. Great section of rapids in a beautiful setting!
May 5 2016 (990 days ago)
deweyfuller (158182)
Have waited for a window to run the Red for a few years. By chance I noticed a lot of black dots in
eastern KY on the USGS map. The Red was running with more rain predicted. We made what turned out
to be a 5-hour drive from Bristol and arrived at what we thought was the takeout with plenty of
time to make the run. About half way up on the paid shuttle we realized that this was not the
"upper" gorge that we wanted to run but was the middle section - all class I. After burning through
the middle section (8miles) in 1.5 hours we were unable to get a shuttle to the upper and ended up
staying the night at Sky Bridge Station a hostel/restaurant in Pine Ridge. Good food, beer and a
clean bed with sheets and blanket. They typically serve climbers and some hikes but they do
shuttles too. The River Gods were good to us giving enough rain overnight to slightly raise the
level and leave about the same flow as we had the previous day. The level was 530 at Hazel Green
when we put on for the upper gorge and 463 four hours later when we arrived at the takeout just
below Concrete Bridge on Hwy 715. This is plenty of water to fill the river and give a swift
current with strong eddy lines and solid class III rapids. Putting in on Stillwater Creek at the
Hwy 746 Bridge the 2.5 mile run down to its confluence with the Red was scenic with several rock
houses and small streams cascading in along the way. No rapids to speak of, but good current. At
the confluence water color went from relatively clear to light brown and the speed picked up. On
the Red there are more rock houses, numerous side streams with small cascades and waterfalls and
some high sheer cliffs. You wouldn't walk out of here, you would climb to get out. About half way
down there was a cross river log that had to be carried on the left. There are about 5 or so
significant rapids about three of these are class III and as noted by other reviews would be IV
rated at higher water. All rapids have a well-defined route but there are big waves and some holes
big enough to stop and hold a boat. One class III had a boulder jumble on river right that looked
congested. About half the river feeds into the jumble and a right to left line is needed to avoid
the boulders. This is a fun run with lots of interesting geology. Allow enough time to explore some
of the side creeks.
September 17 2011 (2682 days ago)
x (1)
This is absolutely the most remote stream in Kentucky. There are very large torrents that locals
have seen at an easy class iv. I have paddled the upper red four times this spring and twice it was
breaking its banks. The strainers are really bad in which some you have no way around. BE EXTREMELY
CAREFUL AT THE LAST BIG SECTION. The last hydraulic will takke you down if you hit it in the
middle. I highly suggest this river but it needs to be way up. The lower on this one the more
strainers you will have problems with. They do not call the last torrent "The Dog Drowner" for
nothing. One of my canoes was torn in half by the beginning of it, once you get to the end the
water is really pushing. All big torrents are strainer free. Remember, ONLY TEAMS OF TWO CANOES
SHOULD HIT THIS RIVER FROM route 746. It is fun if your into epic hauls. Bring a Emergency
Overnight Kit !!!!!!
July 27 2011 (2734 days ago)
NikeTenis (153364)
We ran this river in a group of 3 in early March 2011. We scouted the river at 650 CFS (moving
roughly 6 mph) the day before and decided it was running too fast for our skill level. The next
day, the level was down to ~275 CFS (moving closer to 2-3 mph). Everyone in the group had beginner
white water experience. We stopped frequently to scout, and there was only 1 rapid with a nearly
river white strainer that required portage. At this water level there were some solid class III
rapids (possibly III+) and a large number of class II. Dog drowning hole which was very obvious at
650 CFS was quite small at 275. Overall a very entertaining run, we ran the 10 miles in 4 hours or
so. It was a tiring run (especially with the cold - water was high 30s or so), but the water was
moving constantly which helped. I personally was using a recreational kayak and had no problems
running it. Using a canoe would have been difficult due to some tight turns. I would recommend at
least intermediate skill level at water levels higher than 350 as the current begins to become
quite swift and recovery of your boat could be difficult. The water levels fluctuate rapidly, and
without previous heavy rainfall, the river is more of a creek. I would recommend keeping a close
eye on water levels after a storm.
March 21 2011 (2862 days ago)
Tula1953r (152875)
Ran at around 140-150cfs (per Hazel Green gauge) on 3/19 & 3/20/2011 in a 12 foot recreational
kayak. Water level not a huge problem on the majority of the river, although some of the drops
required portages. This was mostly due to having a recreational kayak, and little whitewater
experience.No river wide strainers, but we did encounter a few smaller strainers in between some of
the boulders. All of which, we were able to pick a route around. Calaboose Falls is beautiful, and
would have been fun in a smaller kayak. All in all a great trip! The scenery and terrain are
amazing. We did the trip with an overnight right around the 5 mile mark. I would not recommend
leaving a vehicle at the put in off of 746, the location is very remote and seems to be a local
party spot. For an excellent shuttle service, try They are located 1/4 mile
East of the 77 & 715 junction in the Red River Gorge. Ken is the owner, and he went out of his way
to accommodate us to make the trip possible.
March 7 2011 (2876 days ago)
Brent AustinDetails
Hugo Araneda and I (Brent Austin) ran this on March 6, 2011 with approximately 1150 cfs in Hazel
Green. We put on the Stillwater Creek, which we estimated had approximately 700 cfs with a combined
flow at the Red of around 1850 - 2000 cfs. The holes were big and the rapids were substantial class
III+ with consequences. Harder than the Ocoee at this level with Lower Gauley type moves. Very
heavy water. At this level I would say a class III-IV overall because of the pushy water and
problematic hydraulics with moves to make. Good level and a great choice for the right boaters. We
did the trip in about an hour and a half. Wow, beautiful in there. Most of the river wide strainers
at lower water were submerged at this level and we did not have to get out of our boats. Brent
June 1 2005 (4981 days ago)
alan smithDetails
Ran the red on 4/29/05, post flood run again, red hit 3400 on Friday, ran it sunday at ~600 cfs
(4ft). Some of the pictures here say the level is 6ft, but must be wrong because some of the
boulders visible in the pictures are covered at 4ft. At this level the rapids are probably a solid
class III, with a couple rapids borderline IV. The Falls of the red river have a pretty large hole
on both sides, so the center is the best line on that. River left hole sucked me back under the
falls and spit me out down river. There was a lot of wood in the rapids, one major bottleneck had a
sneak on the river right side behind a large boulder, there was a river wide strainer in the flat
water section toward the end.
April 4 2005 (5039 days ago)
aaron kochDetails
Most recent run of the Red on Sun april 3rd.
Great level, proabably around 700 or 800cfs. It's different from the guage on most occasions. All
the large rapids are clean and wood free, however, there are numerous smaller rapids with
strainers. Some are nearly river wide and the path around is only visible at the last moment. Most
rapids have an eddy making boat scouting possible. If you run this river at higer levels, don't let
the flat water fool you. Please take this run seriously. It DOES have consequences.