Lake Barkley, Kentucky & Tennessee, USA

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

If you’re considering Lake Barkley 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 Lake Barkley guide!

Lake Barkley visitor and community guide

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

Lake Barkley is one of the premier recreational destinations in Western Kentucky. The reservoir was created by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1966 for flood control, hydroelectric power, and navigation; the Barkley Dam impounds the Cumberland River near Grand Rivers, Kentucky. Lake Barkley offers visitors and year round residents more than 1000 miles of scenic shoreline, abundant outdoor recreation, and exceptional fishing. The 118-mile long lake stretches south across the western tip of Kentucky into Tennessee.

The Army Corps of Engineers reduces the lake level in winter to prevent flooding in the spring. Summer pool is 359 feet above sea level with 57,920 surface acres. Winter pool is 354 feet above sea level with 45,210 surface acres. Lake Barkley’s maximum depth is about 68 feet, with an average depth of 15 feet. A navigational buoy system directs boats away from shallow areas.

Lake Barkley, along with neighboring Kentucky Lake to the west, 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. A canal at the northern end of the recreation area connects the two lakes.

Fishing on Lake Barkley is one of the most-enjoyed activities, as anglers cast their lines in hopes of catching the next record-winning bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, Kentucky bass, largemouth bass, sauger, or white bass. Year-round fishing opportunities abound, from the spring crappie spawn to fall largemouth bass. If angling is even a passing interest for you, do yourself a favor and reserve at least a day to float through coves and cast your reel into Lake Barkley.

The Land Between the Lakes (LBL) area is also rich with civil war sites and forts (Fort Henry and Fort Donnelson). Old Eddyville’s Cobb House has become the home of the Lyon County Museum. This two-story Federal brick house, built in 1832, is listed on the National Register; exhibits include an interesting working model of an old iron furnace. The mammoth Kentucky State Penitentiary, called the Castle on the Cumberland, towers over the Lake Barkley shoreline and is a favorite subject of photographers.

Water lovers flock to Lake Barkley, as it is known as a year-round boating paradise. The main marina offers 112 covered boat slips, 60 open boat slips, and a boat launch ramp. You can bring your own boat or rent one of the fishing boats, pontoon boats, kayaks, canoes, or skiing boats that the marina offers. Whatever your choice, make sure to get out onto the lake, as the reservoir is best viewed from its center. If swimming is your pleasure, you can either drop anchor from your boat and dive in, or take advantage of the sandy public swimming beach. Both options are an ideal way to cool off from the Kentucky sun.

Lake Barkley is certainly one of the state’s most beautiful outdoor assets. Even families with the most diverse interests can satisfy every member’s interests, so come visit our neck of the woods as soon as possible. Lake Barkley awaits you.

Custom Lake Barkley house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Lake Barkley

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Barkley

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Sauger
  • Sunfish
  • White Bass

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Lake Barkley

The Lake Barkley 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.

Lake Barkley photo gallery

New photos coming soon!

Lake Barkley statistics & helpful links


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