Kentucky Lake Information

Kentucky Lake lies in western Kentucky and northwest Tennessee, and its shores touch ten counties. This lake is a region called the Kentucky Lakes Area which includes communities surrounding Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, and the Land Between the Lakes.

Kentucky Lake is on the west and Lake Barkley is the east of the Land Between the Lakes. The Land Between the Lakes is a National Recreation Area (NRA) that manages over 170,000 acres of forests, wetlands, and open lands on a peninsula between Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. The U.S. Forest Service operates the NRA. 

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers operates both lakes and the Barkley Dam. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) operates the Kentucky Dam on Kentucky Lake. Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake form a horseshoe, and Kentucky Lake forks off into two arms on its southern end in Tennessee.

The Land Between the Lakes is about eight miles wide and 40 miles long. There are 21 established communities and towns in the Kentucky Lakes Area. The Tennessee River feeds Kentucky Lake and the Columbia River feeds Barkley Lake. 

Kentucky lake is 184 miles long, covers 160,300 acres, and has over 2,300 miles of shoreline with a maximum depth of 70 feet. The confluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers form the Tennessee River, just east of Knoxville, Tennessee, and flows south-southwest to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Visitors and locals enjoy extraordinary boating, camping, fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, and historical sites teeming with Americana. 

History of Kentucky Lake

The TVA began construction of the Kentucky Dam in 1938, and the dam officially opened in 1944. The Barkley Dam came much later in the 1960s. The Tennessee River was navigable only by flatbed boats originally because its upper course was shallow with short rapids. Railroads came to the Tennessee River Valley in the 1840s and disrupted traffic on the river's lower course, which was easier to navigate.

The Kentucky Lakes Area is chock full of history, which ranges from the prehistoric era to recent history. Indian settlements date back 8,000 years ago, and mounds in the area date to 1,000 years ago. Kentucky became the 15th U.S. state in 1792. Tennessee became the 16th state of the U.S. in 1796. Several Indian tribes inhabited Kentucky and Tennessee in the 1790s. 

Andrew Jackson, War of 1812 hero, and seventh President of the United States, led the Democratic Party of the 1830s to become the party of the common people. Twenty years later, President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1832. This act led to the forceful removal of the Indians to Oklahoma Territory. 

The Civil War greatly affected Kentucky and Tennessee, and their own versions of Reconstruction. The two states fell behind in economic prosperity after the war. Kentucky and Tennessee emerged positively with the onset of WWII because the federal government was pouring money into projects long before the U.S. became involved in WWII to prepare to support the Allies.

Before the Kentucky Dam and Kentucky Lake, farmers and rural residents did not have electricity. The TVA relocated many farms, homes, towns, roads, and railroads. Birmingham, Kentucky, had to be moved, and the lake affected roads, which included US 62, US 68, US 79, and others. The interstate system only materialized after WWII.

Birmingham does not exist today except for Birmingham Road and Birmingham Point on Kentucky Lake, but Birmingham Point is not located on Birmingham Road. Birmingham dates back to the 1850s. By 1894, the town boasted five churches, four dry goods and general stores, three grocers, two schools, two hotels, two millinery shops, and two wagon and blacksmith shops. In 1903, businessmen established the Bank of Birmingham.

Birmingham’s most famous resident, “Jumpin’ Joe” Fulks (1921-1976), played college basketball at Murray State University, and went on to play for the NBA. Fulks is remembered for creating the “jump shot”, and his retired jersey hangs in the Community Financial Services Bank Center at Murray State University.

Today, the Kentucky Lakes Area sits in a central location with excellent access to markets, two navigable waterways, and two major interstates, I-69 and I-24. The region has a highly skilled workforce and the major industries are chemical companies, automotive suppliers, other manufacturers, transportation, distribution, and logistics, plus the economic diversity that the lakes and NRA created.

Fishing Kentucky Lake

Predominant game species on Kentucky Lake are white bass, largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass, bluegill, catfish, black and white crappie, sauger, and red-ear sunfish. Fish attractors are in place all along the shorelines of Kentucky Lake in Kentucky and Tennessee and on both sides of the lake. There are too many boat ramps to count; there is a boat ramp almost every few miles all along the lake. 

In the spring, largemouth and smallmouth bass spawn late, in May, June, and July, and hang in timber and brush. In summer, they both concentrate in drop offs and creek channels midday, and shallows early and late. In fall and winter, smallmouth stay deeper than the largemouth and like deep bank rocks. Largemouth head to shallow structure in fall chasing bait fish and move to drop offs in winter. 

White bass are late spring spawners. They chase chad and minnows. They go deep in the main lake in early to midwinter, and move to mud flats in late winter. Stripers concentrate in swift water near the dam in spring and summer. They become active in fall and slow way down in winter. 

Catfish move to shallow mud banks in April, the spawn on rocky shorelines May and June. In summer, they move to the main lake river channels and prefer the sharp bends. In fall and winter, their feeding drops down with the temperature. 

Crappie spawn early in March and April in drop offs and in cover near the shorelines. They move to deep drop offs in main creek and river channels in summer. They go back to their spawning beds in fall and hang in creek channels near the mouths of bays, feeding most actively following two to three days of mild weather.

Bluegill spawn late spring in May, June, and July in timber and brush piles. They hang near trees and docks in summer, fall, and sometimes in December, but the bigger ones go a little deeper. They get sluggish during January and February. 

Check out experienced local pro guides on our Kentucky Lake Fishing Guides page. 

Boating Kentucky Lake

With plenty of boat ramps scattered all around Kentucky Lake and ten marinas, you will not be without marine supplies and fuel. Kentucky Lake is also home to outstanding recreational boating, from jet skis to ski boats to pleasure boating. Sail the lakes, or rent a houseboat and make lasting memories. 

There are plenty of parks and 2,300 miles of shoreline with coves and bays and private beaches for picnicking and swimming. The Land Between the Lakes forms the eastern shoreline with hiking trails and wildlife viewing. No boat? No worries! Rent one from several marina and boat rental businesses. Pontoons are popular, but you can rent other kinds of boats. 

Shop or sell a boat on our  Kentucky Lake Boats for Sale page.

Plan your trip to Truman Reservoir by calling one of the marinas today on our Kentucky Lake Marinas page. 

Kentucky Lake Cabin Rentals

Parks, marinas, and private owners rent cabins on Kentucky Lake varying in size and amenities from rustic to modern for your family adventure or a great time with friends at the lake. Waterfront vacation home rentals offer stunning views of Kentucky Lake and sleep four to more people with private docks, decks, and beaches. Book early; these are popular rentals.   

Find the perfect vacation home on our Kentucky Lake Cabins page. 

Kentucky Real Estate

Kentucky Lake real estate is considered the largest market in Kentucky for lake homes and lake lots. Generally there are between 240 and 260 listings available in the area at any given time. Homes for sale near Kentucky Lake can range from $50k to $2.5 million, with a total market value of around $50 million.

Kentucky Lake lies in a rural area about 73 miles northwest of Nashville, Tennessee, the nearest metroplex to the lake. The Lyon County School District on the northern border of Lake Barkley and the Marshall County School District on the western border of Kentucky Lake provide the only schools on the upper end of Kentucky Lake in Kentucky. The Calloway County School District serves the lower end of Kentucky Lake. 

Quite a few established communities surround Kentucky Lake, with restaurants dotted around the lake on and off the water. Several marinas and a few clubs offer live music and serve alcohol. However, the primary attraction at Kentucky Lake is Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, and the Land Between the Lakes. There are several events like yearly festivals, concert series, and other attractions. 

To find your dream home, explore our Kentucky Lake Homes For Sale page.

Camping Kentucky Lake

Campgrounds galore surround Kentucky Lake in Kentucky and Tennessee. RV parks and campgrounds with RV sites are also plentiful, with enough RV sites for everyone. The Paris Landing State Park Campground in Tennessee offers RV, tent, primitive, and backcountry camping so you can roast marshmallows, cook over an open fire, and sleep with the stars above. The  Tennessee State Parks’ reservation system lets you choose parks, dates, and the type of campsite you want. 

Kentucky does not have a state park on its western shores but has plenty of camping and RV sites. You can also find great camping spots at the Land Between the Lakes, where you can also bike, auto tour, hike, picnic, relax, ride horses, and watch wildlife. The Land Between the Lakes is a National Recreation Area operated and maintained by the U.S. Forest Service and creates the eastern border of Kentucky Lake. 

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Kentucky Lake Camping page. 

Hunting Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, and Land Between The Lakes offer great hunting opportunities. Hunters seek record book white-tailed deer in this region. Kentucky is regularly one of the top three states producing trophy deer. Farm ground mixed with woodlots in the private sector produces white-tails in quantity and quality.

The nearby Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge offers open hunting in rich bottomland hardwoods. The Refuge contains approximately 5,000 acres of bottom land that provides hunters a chance to bag trophy-sized white-tailed deer, turkey, small game and waterfowl. There are opportunities to chase bobcat, coyotes, deer, squirrels, quail, rabbits, turkeys, and waterfowl, plus a few other critters.  

Check with these agencies for hunting rules and regulations:

Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Information

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Hunting Information

Trails at Kentucky Lake

The most prolific trail system at Kentucky Lake is at the Land Between the Lakes on Kentucky Lake’s eastern shoreline. If you want to hike, bike, backpack, kayak, ride a horse, or try out your off-road vehicle, you can get to the Land Between the Lakes by land or boat. By vehicle, you can enter it on KY 453 on the northern end of Kentucky Lake or on SR 49 from Tennessee on its southern end.

Hike and Bike Trails

Approximately 100 miles of trails and 200 miles of scenic roads lead to some of the most wonderful spots at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Native wildlife, plants, and wildflowers thrive in its woods, fields, and lakeshores. 

The trail system is extensive and offers a wide variety of excursion possibilities. Ebikes are considered motorized equipment and can only be operated on designated motorized routes, the legal roads, and OHV trails. There are five trails designated for hiking and biking. 

  • Canal Loop Trail: 11 to 14 mile loop with four connectors offering challenging terrain, spectacular lake views, and short or long hikes. 
  • Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail: Easy 8.5 trail with smooth surfaces, gentle grades, trail side rest areas, ridge tops of a central hardwoods forest ecosystem.
  • Fort Henry Trail: The Fort Henry Trail System connects 9 trails totaling approximately 27 miles. These trails follow the route of General Grant’s troop movements from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson during the Civil War. 
  • Hillman Heritage National Recreation Trail: The 5.47 miles of trails within the Hillman Ferry Campground woods are listed as a Heritage National Recreation Trail for hiking and biking only. These trails follow historic roads used by the former Star Lime Works community. The trails are open to Hillman campers and the public, for hiking and biking. There is a small parking lot on the north (right) side of the Hillman Ferry Campground entrance road, just before the gatehouse, for the public. Check in at the gatehouse. 
  • North/South Trail: North End: This 59-mile trail spans the entire length of the recreation area. Terrain ranges from rugged, hilly areas in the north to easier, less strenuous hiking in the south. You can access sections of this trail from points along a variety of Forest Service roads and facilities.  

Overnight Backpacking on Trails

Water is not available on the overnight backpacking trails. There are a few seasonal springs. You must carry water and/or bring a filter to use when you find water at the lakeshore. Water is available at the Golden Pond Visitor Center and dump stations at Land Between the Lakes. If you plan to camp in a designated Basic Camping Facility, you must purchase a Basic Camping Permit for each person age 18 and over. 

Overnight Backpacking is allowed at:

  • Canal Loop Trail
  • Fort Henry Trails
  • North/South Trail North End
  • North/South Trail South End

Wranglers Horse Trail

Wranglers Campground and its network of horse trails offer some of the most scenic spots at Land Between the Lakes. It is the only trail system designated for horseback riders and wagons. Deer, wild turkey, hawks, native plants, and waterfowl put on a show for riders. There are historic sites to visit as well. Every year, certain trails are closed for deer quota gun hunts. Rocking U Stables offers guided trail rides. A permit is required for each trailer entering Land Between the Lakes. Fees are $10 a day or $100 for an annual permit.

Turkey Bay Off-Highway Vehicle Area (OHV)

Turkey Bay OHV Area provides designated OHV and primitive trails for OHV camping opportunities. The area offers approximately 100 miles of primary, secondary, and tertiary trails for different OHV riding challenges. All riders must sign a liability waiver. By signing, registrants agree to obey all rules and regulations posted at Turkey Bay OHV Area and on Land Between the Lakes’ literature and website.

Permit holders are responsible for all uses of their registered vehicles, ensuring they are operated in a safe manner at all times. It is located at 80 Turkey Creek Road, Golden Pond, Kentucky. Riding times are from dawn to dark. The park can close due to rain and saturated ground. The gatehouse is open Thursday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Annual permits are available. 

Things to Do at Kentucky Lake 

If you want to take a break from the usual lake activities, there are attractions surrounding Kentucky Lake for families and adult entertainment. Two golf courses are right on the water, but on Barkley Lake, which is very close to Kentucky Lake’s upper end. 

The Cullan at Mineral Mound is an 18-hole, par 72 golf course located at 48 Finch Lane, Eddyville, Kentucky. The property was once the farm of Willis B. Machen, grandfather of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Lake views flank the front nine holes, and woods skirt the back nine holes. A pro shop offers rental carts, clubs, and golf merchandise. 

The Lake Barkley “Boots Randolf” Golf Course, located at 2711 Blue Springs Road, Cadiz, Kentucky, is an 18-hole course laid out along the valley floor with no blind shots and a meandering stream that comes into play at the holes. 

The Venture River Family Water Park, located at 280 Fun Way Drive, Eddyville, Kentucky, is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and sometimes on weekends only. This park features two extreme body slides with breathtaking drops, the wipeout, a super-sized slide house that’s five levels high with three tunnel body slides, a multi-lane slide, a crazy cruise slide, two flushing buckets, and water interactive activities.

The Forgotten Past Amusement Park, located at 3390 U.S. Hwy. 68 East, Benton, Kentucky features a gift shop, go karts, bumper cars, mini golf, museum, and arcade. A pavilion is available for family gatherings, church groups, or other occasions. Reservations for the pavilion are required. This park opens daily at 1:00pm Memorial Day to Labor Day and is open on weekends at 1:00pm May and September, weather permitting.

The Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland, located at 9351 US Route 68, Calvert City, Kentucky, offers a walk through some wacky funny folk art sculptures, a toy land, and the Apple Valley Country Store Museum. 

Maggie’s Jungle Golf and Jungle Run, located at 7301 US 641 North, Gilbertsville, Kentucky, features a miniature golf course and a nature trail with a petting zoo. Enjoy mingling with goats, peacocks, ducks, chickens, emus, ostriches, mules, and a camel. This attraction opens at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends, weather permitting. 

Find live shows at Variety! Music, Memories, and More in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, Playhouse in the Park in Murray, Kentucky, and the Kentucky Opry, the Beer Garden, and the Dam Brewhaus in Benton, Kentucky. 

Plan your trip with our What To Do At Kentucky Lake page.

Kentucky Lake Zip Codes

Calloway County, KY: 42020, 42071.

Livingston County, KY: 42045.

Lyon County, KY: 42038

Marshall County, KY: 42025, 42036, 42048.

Trigg County, KY: 37058

Benton County, TN: 38221

Henry County, TN: 38221, 38222, 38224, 38231, 38242, 38251.

Houston County, TN: 37061, 37075, 37078.

Humphreys County, TN: 37137, 37055, 37101, 37181, 37185.

Stewart County, TN: 37050, 37058.

Kentucky Lake Weather & Climate

Kentucky Lake sees an average of 54 inches of rain per year, with seven inches of snow and 197 days of sunshine. The winter low in January is 27 degrees and a summer high in July of 89 degrees. May, September, and October are the most comfortable months for this region. December and January are the least comfortable months. 

Keep an eye on the skies at our Kentucky Lake Weather page. 

Kentucky Lake Flora and Fauna

At Kentucky Lake, you can see a variety of habitats, including croplands, vegetated wetlands, mudflats, and scrub areas. There is a significant population of white-tailed deer. Common animals for wildlife viewing are bats, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, racoons, river otters, squirrels, and spotted salamanders. There are 51 species of mammals, 89 reptiles and over 300 species of birds in the Kentucky Lakes Area. 

Kentucky Lake Email Updates


Kentucky Lake Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.


Kentucky Lake Weather Forecast


Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 88

Tuesday Night

Rain Showers Likely

Lo: 73


Thunderstorms Likely

Hi: 86

Wednesday Night

Chance Thunderstorms

Lo: 67


Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 81

Thursday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 63


Partly Sunny

Hi: 83

Friday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 65

Kentucky Lake Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 7/16: 708.20 (+352.20)

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