Mammoth Cave National Park is mainly known for its titular geologic feature. But along with the longest known cave system in the world, the park is host to the river that helped carve out its winding subterranean tunnels: the Green River. There are few better ways to experiencing the Green River than camping next to it at the Houchin Ferry Campground.
This primitive campground stands out for its proximity to the Green River and the recreational opportunities that come with it. But the amenities are sparse. Campsites are small and cramped. There is a level area for a tent, picnic table, and fire ring, and a deep parking spot that might fit two small vehicles end to end, but extra cars really should be parked at the overflow picnic area at the entrance of the park.
Part of the parking limitation is the mature trees that dot the campground. These shade most of each campsite and might seem appealing as hammock candidates but using them as such is banned by the park.
There are waste facilities in the form of porta-potties at the entrance to the campground along with a single water spigot of dubious origin. But campers will have to leave the park for any other resources.
Houchin Ferry Campsites are reserved through the recreation.gov website. There is no onsite payment method for last-minute arrivals to claim unreserved spots and with the incredibly spotty cell service at the campground, it’s best to reserve sites before arrival, even if you are arriving the same day. That said, it is nigh impossible to gauge a campsite by the single picture and map of recreation.gov but you don’t have much choice when it comes to reserving a campsite at Houchin Ferry.
While camping may involve a fair bit of compromise, Houchin Ferry Campground is ideal for launching small watercraft, fishing, and picnicking. Although half of the campground’s sites are next to the water, they are positioned on a high, weedy bank. It’s great for views but not ideal for accessing the water. Instead, water access is at the end of the Houchin Ferry Road where the pavement dead-ends into the Green River. This looks like it was originally a boat launch that could have serviced larger watercraft on trailers. But river flooding and erosion have led to the water access being blocked off from vehicles. Today, campers can only reach the water on foot and share the limited bank with fishers and small watercraft.
It’s worth noting what this area doesn’t accommodate as well. The river bottom’s sharp, muddy drop, moderate current, and near-constant presence of fishing along the shoreline make the river a poor candidate for wading or swimming. There also are no hiking trailheads within walking distance of the campground. It also is not a convenient access point for the rest of the park. On maps, the campground may look like a waypoint connecting Houchin Ferry Road with Ollie Road and the rest of the Mammoth Caves National Park. In practice, Houchin Ferry Road dead-ends at the Green River. To access the rest of the park, campers drive out of the park and follow Mammoth Cave Road to the main entrance of Mammoth Caves National Park.
In short, Houchin Ferry is excellent for water activities but for those more focused on hiking, biking, and easy access to the caves, we would recommend the more developed Mammoth Cave Campground.
Houchin Ferry Campground in Mammoth Cave National Park is amazing at half capacity. But I’m not quite sure what the designer was thinking when they practically stacked each campsite on top of the other. On weekdays, it seems that the grounds operate reasonably. We share the ten spaces with 4 parties. But on the weekend, we have two tents from the neighboring site erected within a couple of feet of our truck’s wheels and someone seems to really like Def Leopard.
Overall, this is a campground that is best enjoyed off-season or mid-week. But I certainly would visit again. And nest time, we will definitely bring fishing poles.