Lake Barkley, Kentucky & Tennessee, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Barkley — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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Looking for Lake Barkley cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake Barkley

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.

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

Find Places to Stay at Lake Barkley

If you’re considering a Lake Barkley lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Barkley Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Barkley lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

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 Statistics & Helpful Links


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