Kentucky is preserving the unique scenic, fish and wildlife, botanical, geological, cultural and recreational values of its most pristine rivers through the Wild Rivers Program. The program was established by the Kentucky Wild Rivers Act of 1972 and is administered by the Division of Water (DOW). Check out the Wild Rivers Story Map to learn about these special rivers.
Portions of nine rivers of exceptional quality and aesthetic character have been designated as Kentucky Wild Rivers. Each Wild River is actually a linear corridor encompassing all visible land on each side of the river up to a distance of 2,000 feet. The nine Wild River corridors comprise a total of 114 river miles and 26,382 acres of land.
The Wild Rivers system recognizes those rivers that retain many of their natural attributes and protects them from unwise use and development. Some activities are strictly prohibited within a Wild River corridor, such as surface mining, clear-cutting of timber and construction of dams or other in-stream disturbances. Existing residential and agricultural uses continue, but developments that might impair the river's water quality or natural condition are regulated through a permit system. Click here for more information on the permit system.
Wild Rivers are more than just clean, free-flowing waters in a scenic setting. They serve as refuges for wild plants and animals, as well as havens for those people seeking solitude and tranquility in nature's realm. Their waters provide healthy sport fisheries, cool pools for swimming and white-water rapids for adventurous paddlers.
Wild Rivers provide living examples of natural ecological processes for nature study and scientific research.
Wild Rivers are also natural museums harboring the relics of prehistoric inhabitants in rock shelters and caves, and preserving the ancient impressions of primitive life in rock strata.
With funding provided by the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, the DOW is acquiring from willing sellers private land within or adjacent to designated Wild River corridors. The agency is an important source of funds for ensuring the permanent protection of ecologically significant lands in the Commonwealth.
These priceless treasures known as Wild Rivers are held in public trust by the Commonwealth of Kentucky for our use and enjoyment, and thanks to the Wild Rivers Act, they will be here for many generations to come.
For more information regarding the Wild Rivers program, please contact Josh Lillpop, 502-573-2886, KY Wild Rivers, KY State Nature Preserves Commission.
Back to the Water Quality Main Page