Kentucky Lake, Kentucky & Tennessee, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Kentucky Lake.

If you’re considering Kentucky Lake vacation rentals, we’ve made it super easy to explore accommodations and nearby hotels using the interactive map below. Simply click on a listing to compare similar properties, best rates and availability for your dates. Or keep scrolling to read our Kentucky Lake guide!

Kentucky Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - South - Kentucky - Western Waterlands - Tennessee - West -

Kentucky Lake is the largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi when measured by surface acres at “full pond,” the normal water level: 184 miles long, 2 miles wide, 160,309 surface acres, and 2,380 miles of shoreline! The lake stretches south across the western tip of Kentucky into Tennessee.

Kentucky Lake was created in 1944 by the Tennessee Valley Authority for navigation, flood control, hydroelectric power, and recreation. The Kentucky Dam impounds the Tennessee River at Gilbertville, Kentucky. The average summer pool is 359 feet above sea level; winter pool averages 354 feet.

Fishing at Kentucky Lake is a dream come true for many anglers. Currently holding the state record for Buffalo carp (55 lbs.), white bass (5 lbs.), and yellow perch (1 lb., 4 oz.), the reservoir also houses bluegill, catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, red-ear sunfish, and sauger. Due to warm area temperatures, fishing season is year-round. The large fish population coupled with the lake’s large size promises to keep every angler’s bait box empty and belly full.

Boaters may choose to bring their own boat or rent one from the area marinas, but either way, a whole lot of fun is in store. The lake’s massive acreage is made more exciting by its finger coves, adding up to an incredible 2,380 miles of shoreline to explore. Taking a speedy ride through the larger channels, boaters love the adrenaline rush and the beautiful scenery that stretches out before them. And when you’re looking for a little more excitement, jump out behind the boat, get your water skis on and enjoy a fast-paced ride through the cool, clean waters. When it’s time to slow down, head into the quiet coves and inlets to discover the beautiful forest, shy white-tailed deer, painted turtles, and swooping bald eagles.

Make sure you obtain a good navigational and topographical map of Kentucky Lake before venturing out. The deepest parts of the lake, around 60 feet, run along the old Tennessee River Channel at the northern end of the lake. Watch the buoys to avoid shallow areas and navigational hazards.

Kentucky Lake, along with neighboring Barkley Lake to the east, surround the famed 170,000 acre Land Between the Lakes (LBL) National Recreation Area. Explore the local flora and fauna from more than 200 miles of trails created from old logging trails, abandoned roads, and fresh-cut paths. LBL recreation area also offers live wildlife exhibits, a planetarium, a 19th century working farm, camping, horseback riding, cycling and mountain biking trails. The Barkley-Kentucky Canal at the northern end of the recreation area connects the two lakes.

The nearby Kentucky town of Paducah is full of art galleries, fine restaurants, antique stores, handmade quilts, golf course, and exciting nightlife. The Venture River Family Water Park tempts families with its high speed slides, classic water rides, and a chance to cool off from the hot summer sun.

It’s nearly impossible to partake in all of Kentucky Lake’s recreational offerings. In addition to the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, the expansive shoreline includes the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, 4 state parks, 2 county parks, 5 municipal parks, and 2 state wildlife management areas. The choice of enjoyment is yours.

Custom Kentucky Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Kentucky Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • State Park
  • Antiquing

Fish species found at Kentucky Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Sauger
  • Sunfish
  • White Bass
  • Yellow Perch

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Kentucky Lake

The Kentucky Lake map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Kentucky Lake photo gallery

New photos coming soon!

Kentucky Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Not Known

Water Level Control: Tennessee Valley Authority

Surface Area: 160,309 acres

Shoreline Length: 2,380 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 359 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 348 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 370 feet

Average Depth: 20 feet

Maximum Depth: 60 feet

Water Volume: 4,008,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1944

Drainage Area: 40,200 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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