Little Sandy River - White Water Paddling

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The Little Sandy River embarks in southern Elliott County and flows northeast to the Ohio River. It carries on for just under 90 miles total and sections of it are ideal for flatwater and lower class rapid paddling.

Written by

Cinnamon Janzer


25.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

95.4 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

While there are some Class I and Class II rapids along the way, stretches of it are nothing but nice and easy.

Time To Complete

4 hours


Spring and Summer

Fees Permits




This little gem starts off slow, but eventually progresses into Class I and Class II rapids, so you’re guaranteed to never be bored. The Little Sandy River immerses paddlers in gorgeous landscapes (it winds through the Cumberland Plateau Mountains) and isn’t far from Grayson Lake State Park, which is a total beauty as well. Whether you’re looking for a quick outing or you want to turn it into a several day excursion broken up by camping, the Little Sandy River can accommodate.

What Makes It Great

Camping options abound throughout the Cumberland Plateau Mountains, so if you want to rough it in the great outdoors between paddle sessions, there will be no shortage of places to do so. Whether you’re in the water or roasting a s’more on the shore, there are plenty of coves, waterfalls, rock formations, and cliffs to keep your eyes busy. As of 2014, Grayson Lake saw a huge upgrade that included an easy out at the Buck Farm in Leon, a couple of hours downstream.

When it comes to paddling itself, the river is great for groups of varying skill levels. Beginners won’t encounter anything too treacherous and for those who are a little more advanced, there are a few interesting rapids as well.

The river is great for all kinds of interests, even those that don’t include rapids at all, especially when it meets Grayson Lake. Because of the long stretches of rapid-free areas along the Little Sandy River, canoeing is a great option here too—Little Sandy River is not just a spot for rafters and kayakers.

Who is Going to Love It

Canoeists, kayakers, and rafters alike will all find something to enjoy here at all skill levels. Experienced paddlers looking and those new to the game will enjoy paddling down the Little Sandy River in equal measure. There are sections of the river that are easy and peaceful, with other portions get up to Class II, providing the perfect introduction for someone who is just dipping their toe in (literally and figuratively).

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Take I-64 E to the Grayson, KY exit and head down KY-7 S. After about 20 miles you’ll see Laurel Gorge Visitor Center signs on your left and that’s where you want to be.

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Little Sandy River

38.581468, -82.839335

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