Take an underground kayaking trip at Red River Gorge near Slade, Kentucky! It’s a unique way to check out a flooded limestone mine.
If you’ve thought about visiting Natural Bridge State Park or Red River Gorge any time in the past couple of years, chances are you’ve heard about one of the newest attractions in the area.
It’s true — underground kayaking and paddle boarding tours are now a thing in Red River Gorge!
So on a recent camping trip to the gorge with friends, we decided to check out this experience.
Still deciding if a tour like this is for you? Here’s what to expect if you go.
Where Is the Underground Kayaking in Red River Gorge?
The underground kayaking and paddle boarding takes place in a flooded limestone mine just off State Highway 11.
The entrance to the mine is just a couple of miles south of Natural Bridge State Park.
There are lots of cabins and camping sites nearby (and also amazing pizza at Miguel’s).
A lot of the most popular hiking trails in the gorge are a 15 to 20-minute drive north of this area.
Looking for more outdoor adventures in Kentucky? For hiking, I recommend East and West Pinnacle trails, as well as Robe Mountain and Basin Mountain, all in Berea. And Twin Knobs at Cave Run Lake is a beautiful place to camp.
Booking a Kayak Tour
(SUP Kentucky offers paddle boarding at Cumberland Falls and Grayson Lake too.)
The excursions in Red River Gorge share the same location, but have different start points.
We chose the Crystal Kayak tour, which means that the kayaks are transparent. And they have colored LEDs, so you’ll have a beautiful neon glow spreading in every direction around you!
Make sure to book in advance online. They do sell out, especially on weekends!
Groups are generally kept small, so it’s easy to stay together and hear the guide talk.
The tours operate even when it’s cold or raining, because the weather in the cave stays the same.
What Gear Should I Bring?
Especially if it’s a warm day outside, the mine can feel cold. I wore long sleeves and a puffer jacket.
If you opt for the Crystal Kayak tour, you can’t wear shoes in the boat, so bring warm socks. We like the NRS Hydroskin 0.5 socks.
Gloves are handy too (the NRS Women’s HydroSkin gloves worked well for me).
If you don’t bring your own neoprene socks and gloves, no worries! You can rent them when you check in.
What Is Underground Kayaking at Red River Gorge Like?
We arrived to check in about 15 minutes before the tour.
After check-in, our guide met the group to get everyone set up with personal flotation devices (PFDs) – in other words, vests – to keep you buoyant if you fall in.
We also got helmets with head lamps.
Our Crystal Kayak tour began with a history of the 100-year-old mine. We walked through the dry portion of the cavern.
Our guide pointed out salamanders and cave crickets as we walked. (Sometimes you can see bats too!)
Once we reached the kayaks, we had a brief reminder on how to paddle. Then we removed our shoes and chose which color light we each wanted for our kayak.
Everyone on our tour had kayaked before, but the guides seemed ready to help with a more in-depth kayaking demo if someone hadn’t.
Our main guide, Markel, kept us entertained as we kayaked through the cave, and pointed out leftover artifacts from the mine.
We also learned about the types of rocks we were seeing, and about the rainbow trout swimming below us.
Our other guide, Nick, stayed behind the group and took photos. And probably also made sure no one got lost!
You have the chance to buy a digital photo album of your trip at the end of the experience.
We had an amazing time! And I say that in spite of the fact that I’m not a huge fan of caves — or in this case, mines.
But the glow-in-the-dark vibe was fun, and the guide’s dad-jokes and the cool views of fish pushed this experience over the top.
The tour was around an hour and a half total.
If you’ll be in the Red River Gorge, this is definitely a must!