Before a dam was constructed on the Ohio River, the Falls of the Ohio was a nightmare for river pilots. The McAlpine Dam has changed the face of boating, but dangers remain when the dam gates are wide open. The river can be Class 4 or 5 rapids with standing waves 15-feet high, or as peaceful as a farm pond, depending on the season.
Limestone shelves just below the surface means you have to be careful trekking between the boat ramp and the channel below the Interpretive Center. Bass boats are common. Pontoon use is risky.
Wave Runners and Similar Craft
Not permitted in the National Wildlife Conservation Area (between the two railroad bridges that mark the Wildlife Conservation Area boundaries).
Canoes and kayaks may be launched from the George Rogers Clark boat ramp; lightweight poke boats are often carried down from the parking lot behind the Interpretive Center. Whitewater rafts are used by experienced rafters when the river runs fast. In the spring, the Falls is not the place for inexperienced whitewater enthusiasts.
The park offers a guided “canoe hike” when the gates are closed between mid-August and mid-October. Bring your own watercraft. Consult the Programs page on this website for a schedule.