Lake Cumberland has been a favorite getaway in Kentucky for over 60 years. The 101-mile-long lake stretches across five counties: Cumberland, Clinton, Wayne, Russell and Pulaski. One of the largest reservoirs in the country, it was created by the impoundment of the Cumberland River.
Park ranger Judy Daulton of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wolf Creek Dam was authorized in the 1940s to create a source of hydroelectric power for the region and to prevent flooding. Construction was completed in the 1950s. “Wolf Creek Dam is one of 10 dams located on the Cumberland River,” she said. “It produces enough electricity to supply a city of 375,000 people.”
It also supplies opportunities for recreation. “With lakes come camping, fishing, hiking, skiing, boating. We have over 3 million visitors a year,” she said.
Carolyn Mounce, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said visitors come from everywhere. “It is a very deep lake, but it’s also a very clear lake,” she said. “If you’re into water sports, or fishing, or houseboating, or just want to lay in the sun, Lake Cumberland is the place to be.”
The lake was declared the houseboat capital of the world by the state of Kentucky in 2014. “When it comes to houseboating, it really is a lifestyle,” said Bryan Horne, of the Lake Cumberland State Dock. “You’ve got a floating home on a lake.”
The charter boat business allows people to make day trips for fishing. “There are some great fishing destinations. You can just leave right here from the dock and take advantage of that,” said Horne.
John Williams, the Southeastern District biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the lake has a diverse variety of fish, with warm water at the surface and cooler water deeper down.
“Cumberland has what we call cool water habitat,” he said. “So once you get into the colder waters below the thermocline, there’s still oxygen down there so it can support fish that prefer cooler water, such as the striped bass, walleye, and to a lesser extent small mouth bass.”
The lake is more than 150 feet deep, Williams said, and has 1,225 miles of shoreline. “Cumberland has a variety of shoreline habitats. You can kind of have this chunk rock and big boulders. There’s other parts that are almost sheer rock bluffs. Then you have, especially on the main lake, you have quite a few red clay banks and mud banks.”
There are two state parks on the lake: Lake Cumberland State Resort Park and General Burnside Island State Park. General Burnside features a campground open April 1-Oct. 31. The Lake Cumberland resort park features the 63-room Lure Lodge, as well as cabins and campgrounds.
Stephen Eastin, the Cumberland Lake resort park manager, said Kentuckians don’t have to travel out of state for a vacation on the water. “I’ve got 60,000 acres of lake right here. And you won’t find better scenery,” he said. The resort’s Rowena Landing Restaurant features wide views of the lake.
Mounce said the lake is good for both solitude and for company. ”You’ll find party coves on the lake where you may have 50 boats tied together,” she said. The annual Lake Cumberland Raft-Up has features hundreds of boats tied together for a day-long party with a live band.
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2201, which originally aired on October 1, 2016. Watch the full episode.