The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers run roughly parallel through western Kentucky. Both have had dams constructed near Grand Rivers for flood control and power production. The Tennessee River was dammed to make Kentucky Lake and the Cumberland River to make Lake Barkley. A canal between the two lakes was dug at Grand Rivers, creating an inland peninsula. The federal government purchased all of the land between the lakes to create Land Between the Lakes (LBL), a 170,000-acre national recreation area. Land Between the Lakes offers all the outdoor recreation "basics" with opportunities for environmental and historic interpretation. LBL has many hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, an off-road vehicle area, camping and drag boat racing. Grand Rivers is the only community that fronts on both Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Water recreation is nearly limitless in this area and so is camping, hiking, biking and other outdoor recreation.
The history of the recreation area is tied to the Tennessee Valley Authority. Established in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the TVA was tasked with bringing flood control, power generation, and river navigation to the waterways of the Tennessee River valley. After the Great Flood of 1937, the TVA began land acquisition in order to build a dam on the Tennessee River near Grand Rivers, KY. The dam was completed in 1945 and the resulting impoundment of water was named Kentucky Lake. Shortly after, the US Corps of Engineers began constructing a dam on the nearby Cumberland River with the aim of connecting the navigable waters of the Cumberland with the Tennessee. To accomplish this, a canal was constructed between the two rivers. The dam was completed in 1966 and the resulting lake was named Lake Barkley after Alben Barkley, a Kentucky native and Vice President of the United States under President Harry S. Truman. By 1963, all of the land between the two lakes had been acquired by the federal government and President John F. Kennedy signed legislation creating the recreation area and giving control of the land to the TVA. In 1998, the administration of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation area was transferred to the US Forest Service.
The landscape of LBL is rugged, hilly, and covered with a mixed oak-hickory forest. The recreation area lies in the western most part of the Pennyrile region, also known as the Mississippian Plateau. The landscape is considered to be a Karst area, with streams cutting through limestone valleys and the hills capped with more resistant sandstone.
Flora and faunaEdit
|Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area experiences a multi-seasonal climate. Summers are usually hot and humid, while the winters are moderate. Spring weather is often unstable and brings the greatest risk of storms.
There are four major routes into the recreation area. I-24 and US 62 provide access to the north. US 68 runs through the central part of Land Between the Lakes and US 79 provides access to the south.
Fees and permitsEdit
Certain activities within the Land Between the Lakes require fees or permits. Permits may be purchased at the Golden Pond Visitor Center as well as the North and South Welcome Stations.
The Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway, also known as The Trace, is a 43-mile highway that runs north to south in the recreation area. This highway forms a backbone from which most of the roads within the recreation area branch off of.
- 1 Elk and Bison Prairie (north of the Golden Pond Visitor Center on The Trace). Dawn to Dusk. A 700-acre enclosure that has been restored to pre settlement habitat. Herds of Bison and Elk have been reintroduced and may be viewed from vehicles via a 3.5-mile loop. The Elk and Bison Prairie is open year round.
- 2 Golden Pond Visitor Center and Planetarium, ☏ . 9AM-5PM. The Golden Pond Visitor Center should be considered a starting point for anyone new to the area. Information on all aspects of the recreation area can be found here. The Planetarium is open most of the year with the exception of late December. After hours star parties are often held in addition to the regularly scheduled exhibitions. The visitor center is open year round with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Operating hours may be limited between Christmas and New Years Day. The visitor center is open until 7PM from mid May to early September.
- 3 North Welcome Station. 9AM-5PM. A staffed visitor center located at the north end of The Trace. The welcome station is open March 1 through November 30. The North Welcome station is open Monday through Friday in March and November and seven days a week from April through October.
- 4 South Welcome Station. 9AM-5PM. A staffed visitor center located at the south end of The Trace. The welcome station is open March 1 through November 30. The South Welcome station is open Monday through Friday in March and November and seven days a week from April through October.
- 5 The Homeplace (from the Golden Pond Visitor Center travel 12 miles south along The Trace). 10AM-5PM. A working history farm showcasing the farming techniques and home life of the mid-19th century. The Homeplace is open daily from April 1 to October 31. During March and November the farm is open W-Su. The Homeplace is closed to visitors from December 1 to the end of February.
- 6 Woodlands Nature Station (from Golden Pond Visitor Center, travel north on The Trace 8 miles, then take Mulberry Flat Rd. for 5 miles). 10AM-5PM. The Woodlands Nature Station allows visitors to experience the different varieties of wildlife and ecosystems found within the recreation area. The nature station is open daily April 1 to October 31. During March and November the nature station is open Wed - Sun. The Woodlands Nature Station is closed to visitors from December 1 to the end of February. Five hiking trails begin at the nature station.
There are many miles of paved and unpaved roads to explore within the recreation area. Bikes are also allowed on the Canal Loop and North South trails.
Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley combined offer almost 220,000 acres of water to fish from. Besides the two large lakes, there are many small lakes and ponds within LBL. All applicable state fishing licenses are required.
Land Between the Lakes offers over 200 miles of hiking trails to explore.
Long distance trailsEdit
- North South Trail: At 58 miles, this trail spans the entire length of LBL and ranges from rugged, hilly terrain in the north to more smooth hiking in the south. Portions are accessible from The Trace for those wishing to hike a section of the trail.
- Fort Henry National Recreation Trail: In the south end of LBL, Fort Henry is a system of 10 connecting trails totaling 26 miles. The trail follows closely the route of General Grant's troop movements from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson during the Civil War.
- Canal Loop Trail: In the north end, this series of connecting trails provides walks ranging from 1.5 miles to 14 miles. One of the most popular trails, because it offers spectacular lake views and the opportunity for short walks.
- Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail: An eleven-mile multiple use trail connecting both lakes and running along the US 68 corridor. Most of the trail is compacted stone with 2.5 miles being paved. The trail is open to hikers and bikes.
- Honker Trail: Near the Woodlands Nature Station, this trail winds around Honker Lake through a variety of habitats. This trail is 4.5 miles long.
- Hematite Lake Trail: Near the Woodlands Nature Station, this easy walk around Hematite Lake offers a chance to see migratory waterfowl and other wildlife. This trail is 2.2 miles long.
- Woodland Walk: An easy, one mile, wooded trail winding through the forests and along the shoreline of Honker Lake.
- Center Furnace Trail: Embarking from the ruins of the Center Iron Furnace near the Woodlands Nature Station, this easy 0.3-mile walk is marked with interpretive signs, offering a glimpse of the bustling industry that thrived in the region 150 years ago.
- Long Creek National Recreational Trail: Near the Woodlands Nature Station, this 0.2-mile paved trail is accessible to visitors with physical disabilities.
Horse riding and campingEdit
The recreation area offers over 100 miles of horse trails and many more miles of roadways. Wranglers Campground is designed to accommodate horses and their riders.
LBL offers annual spring turkey and squirrel hunts, fall/winter hunts for deer, waterfowl, and a variety of small game species. Hunters can also enjoy a variety of camping choices, from the convenience of developed campgrounds to the rustic adventure of camping LBL's back-country.
All hunters must have an LBL Hunter Use Permit and applicable state licenses. To hunt deer with firearms, hunters must apply during the month of July and be drawn for a quota deer hunt permit. To hunt during the first several days of spring turkey season, hunters must apply during February and be drawn for a quota turkey hunt permit.
- Golden Pond Target Range. Visitors to LBL are invited to practice target shooting at the Golden Pond Target Range, open from dawn till dusk year round. The Target Range is located just off of US HWY 68/KY 80. Two shooting ranges are available. A 175-yard rifle range and a 50 yard pistol range. An archery range is located on site as well. The range is closed from 8 to 11AM every Wednesday for maintenance.
OHV riding and campingEdit
The Turkey Bay Off Highway Vehicle Area is the only area in the recreation area designated for OHV use. There are over 100 miles of trail to explore and camping is allowed at designated areas along the lake shore and Forest Road 167. Riders are required to purchase an OHV permit and sign a waiver of liability.
Since the recreation area is surrounded by water, there are almost limitless opportunities to enjoy water activities. There are many boat ramps located in Land Between the Lakes. Canoes are available for rental at the Woodlands Nature Station and Lake Energy Campground.
There are gift shops at The Homeplace, welcome stations, visitor center, and the Woodlands Nature Station.
Other than vending machines, there are no eating establishments within the recreation area. Visitors should plan on bringing in their own food to prepare or visit one of the surrounding communities or state parks.
There are no alcohol sales within the recreation area. In Kentucky, three of the bordering counties—Lyon, Marshall, and Trigg—are wet, as is the city of Murray. In Tennessee, alcohol sales are allowed in Henry County.
While there are no lodging options available within the recreation area, there are several surrounding towns and state parks that can provide accommodations.
- Aurora, Kentucky
- Benton, Kentucky
- Calvert City, Kentucky
- Gilbertsville, Kentucky
- Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park, Kentucky
- Murray, Kentucky
- Dover, Tennessee
- Paris, Tennessee
- Energy Lake Campground, 5501 Energy Lake Dr. Golden Pond, KY 42211, ☏ . In the central portion of LBL, Energy Lake offers 48 well-defined sites with 35 electrical hookups capable of handling tents or motor homes. Campers have access to a swimming and beach area, playground, activity field, canoe and kayak rentals, and hiking trails. The campground is open March 1 through November 30. Some campsites can be reserved up to six months in advance.
- Hillman Ferry Campground, 820 Hillman Ferry Rd. Grand Rivers, KY 42045, ☏ . At the north end of LBL, Hillman Ferry Campground offers 378 well-defined sites capable of handling a variety of camping from tents to large motor homes. Basic, electric, water, and sewer sites are available. . Campers have access to modern facilities, including a large swimming area, archery range, ball field, bike trails, campfire amphitheater, hiking trails, two boat ramps, fishing dock, picnic tables, and fire rings. During the summer season, recreation programs are offered for all ages. Hillman Ferry Outpost offers camping supplies and rental services. While the campground is open from March 1 to November 30, water is only available from April 1 to October 31. Some campsites may be reserved up to six months in advance.
- Piney Campground, 621 Fort Henry Rd. Dover, TN 37058, ☏ . At the south end of LBL, Piney Campground offers 384 well-defined sites with 281 electrical hookups, 44 sites with electric, water, and sewer, and 59 primitive sites. Most sites are capable of handling large motor homes and campers. Campers have access to modern facilities, including a beach and swimming area, archery range, ball field, bike trails, a campfire theater, hiking trails, two boat ramps, and a fishing pier. Piney has 9 primitive cabins available for nightly rental in the campground. In addition, the summer season offers daily recreation programs for all ages. Piney Outpost offers camping supplies and rental services. While the campground is open from March 1 to November 30, water is only available from April 1 to October 31. Some campsites may be reserved up to six months in advance.
- Wranglers Campground, 5100 Laura Furnace Rd. Golden Pond, KY 42211, ☏ . Wranglers Campground provides year-round opportunities for all groups with specialized camping facilities for horseback riding and wagon driving enthusiasts. Services include an activity court, showers, camping shelters, guided trail rides, and farrier and blacksmith services. Wranglers Outpost offers limited food, camping, and equestrian supplies. The campground is open April 1 to October 31. Some sites may be reserved up to six months in advance.
Backcountry camping is allowed in most of the recreation area. A backcountry camping permit is required if staying overnight in the backcountry. Permits may be purchased for 3 nights or annually. If camping along the three long distance trails, the permits are free. Campsites may not be occupied for more than 14 consecutive days. Camping is prohibited in cemeteries, developed areas, or within 200 yards of roads.
A compass and appropriate USGS topographic maps are highly recommended when hiking in the backcountry. Many trails are sparsely blazed and intersections may have no signage whatsoever. There are no large predators in this area, but ticks and poison ivy can be found in abundance. If travelling in the backcountry during hunting season, it is advisable to wear bright colors or a blaze orange vest. Avoid greys, browns, and white as these are the colors of the White Tailed Deer. There is no gas available within LBL, if planning to spend a significant amount of time here make sure to fill up in one of the many surrounding communities.
|Routes through Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area|
|Paducah ← Aurora ←||W E||→ Hopkinsville → Bowling Green|
|Columbus ← Aurora ←||W E||→ Hopkinsville → Bowling Green|