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Rough River Dam State Resort Park

The Rough River Dam Reservoir in western Kentucky was originally built for flood control in the 1950s. But now, the scenic lake is a draw for tourists and new residents alike.

“I would say that Rough River Lake is the ideal lake for people who want to be close enough to home where it’s not inconvenient but far enough away that you feel like you’re getting away,” says Charlie Corbett, Land Developer with Patriots Pointe Custom Homes. “We’re an hour to Bowling Green, an hour to Owensboro, an hour to Elizabethtown. From my home to the airport in Louisville is 90 minutes, so we’re out in the middle of nowhere but we’re close. When you get here, it’s a different world.”

The area is home to Rough River Dam State Resort Park and was once owned by George Washington.

“[Washington] had bought about 5,000 acres thinking they was iron ore on the property,” says Patti Owen of Rough River Dam State Resort Park. “Come to find out, there was no ore on that land.”

The land later became prosperous thanks to the timber industry.“It was a thriving community at one time,” says Decker. “First suspension bridge in the state of Kentucky spans the river there. It’s just a really neat place.”

The construction of the dam began in 1955 for flood control and became operational in 1961, creating the reservoir. Now it’s a hotspot for boating and other activities.

“The recreational use of the lake for the local economy is really what’s impactful,” says Corbett. “We have about 2 million visitors per year and there are several campgrounds maintained around the lake by the Corps of Engineers. They do a fabulous job with that. We’ve got a little bit of something for everybody. You can camp, you can boat, you can hunt, you can fish. You can jet ski, you can do just about anything outdoors that you want to do.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2413, which originally aired on April 20, 2019. Watch the full episode.