Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Kentucky - Southern Lakes -

Lake Cumberland boasts an impressive 50,250 acres and 1,255 miles of winding shoreline at its normal full pool level of 723 feet above sea level. The lake covers parts of Clinton, Laurel, Pulaski, Russell, and Wayne counties in southeastern Kentucky.

Lake Cumberland reservoir was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and hydroelectric power. Construction of the Wolf Creek Dam in 1950 backed up the Cumberland River for 100 miles; Congress named the reservoir Lake Cumberland in 1952. The lake has prevented an estimated $500 million in flood damage over the last 50+ years, and has become one of Kentucky’s most treasured recreational gems.

A lake as large as Lake Cumberland offers its residents and visitors myriad opportunities. Among the most popular is fishing, as the reservoir holds the state records for brown trout (21 lb.), lake trout, (5 lb., 5 oz.), rainbow trout (14 lb., 6 oz.), sauger (7 lb., 7 oz.), striped bass (58 lb., 4 oz.), sturgeon (36 lb., 8 oz.), and walleye (21 lb., 8 oz.). Renting a boat, if you choose not to take your own, is easy, so you’ll be able to spend countless hours indulging in a bit of angling fun.

Boating is perhaps Lake Cumberland’s biggest draw, due to its large size and miles of shoreline. The lake reigns as unofficial Houseboat Capital of the World, and houseboats with almost every conceivable amenity are rented from the many marinas that dot the lake’s shores. After you’ve woken up to the gentle lap of lake waves, eaten lunch while overlooking your 360 degree lake view, taken a one-way ride down your houseboat’s slide, and fallen asleep surrounded by miles of quiet waters, you’ll know that renting a houseboat is a one-of-a-kind vacation experience.

Lake Cumberland is a deep water lake, approximately 200 feet deep near the dam, with an average depth of 90 feet at summer pool. Normal summer pool elevation is 723 feet above sea level with 50,250 surface acres and 1085 miles of shoreline. The Army Corps of Engineers reduces the lake level in winter to prevent flooding in the spring. Winter pool elevation ranges from 690 to 673 feet above sea level. Even at the minimum winter level, Lake Cumberland boasts 35,820 surface acres.

For outdoorsy types, Lake Cumberland is a green wonderland, full of nature walks, beautiful flora, and shy-but-present fauna. Luckily, there are several state parks to use as your starting point: Cumberland Falls State Park, General Burnside Island State Park, and Lake Cumberland State Resort Park all border the lake; several other parks pepper the surrounding areas. Combined, these parks offer miles of nature hikes, horseback riding, white-water rafting, canoeing, and a few golf courses.

At Lake Cumberland, you’ll discover deep blue waters, a big blue sky, and all the activities your heart could dream of. Wake up on a houseboat, score a hole in one, have a lakeside picnic, and water ski for as long as you can stay up, all in one day. Endless fun is what awaits you at this spectacular Kentucky lake.

Things to do at Lake Cumberland

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • State Park

Fish species found at Lake Cumberland

  • Bass
  • Brown Trout
  • Lake Trout
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Sauger
  • Striped Bass
  • Sturgeon
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Lake Cumberland Photo Gallery

Lake Cumberland Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: US Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 50,250 acres

Shoreline Length: 1,255 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 723 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 673 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 760 feet

Average Depth: 90 feet

Maximum Depth: 200 feet

Water Volume: 3,995,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1950

Drainage Area: 5,789 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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