Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is a United States National Recreation Area located in Kentucky and Tennessee.


The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers run roughly parallel through western Kentucky. Both have had dams constructed near Grand Rivers for flood control and power production. The Tennessee River was dammed to make Kentucky Lake and the Cumberland River to make Lake Barkley. A canal between the two lakes was dug at Grand Rivers, creating an inland peninsula. The federal government purchased all of the land between the lakes to create Land Between The Lakes (LBL), a 170,000-acre national recreation area. Land Between the Lakes offers all the outdoor recreation “basics” with opportunities for environmental and historic interpretation. Experience the environment through hands-on excitement at LBL. LBL has many hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, an off-road vehicle area, camping, drag boat racing and much more. Grand Rivers is the only community that fronts on both Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Water recreation is nearly limitless in this area and so is camping, hiking, biking and other outdoor recreation.


The history of the recreation area is tied to the Tennessee Valley Authority. Established in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the TVA was tasked with bringing flood control, power generation, and river navigation to the waterways of the Tennessee River valley. After the Great Flood of 1937, the TVA began land acquisition in order to build a dam on the Tennessee River near Grand Rivers, KY. The dam was completed in 1945 and the resulting impoundment of water was named Kentucky Lake. Shortly after, the US Corps of Engineers began constructing a dam on the nearby Cumberland River with the aim of connecting the navigable waters of the Cumberland with the Tennessee. To accomplish this, a canal was constructed between the two rivers. The dam was completed in 1966 and the resulting lake was named Lake Barkley after Alben Barkley, a Kentucky native and Vice President of the United States under President Harry S. Truman. By 1963, all of the land between the two lakes had been acquired by the federal government and President John F. Kennedy signed legislation creating the recreation area and giving control of the land to the TVA. In 1998, the administration of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation area was transferred to the US Forest Service.


The landscape of LBL is rugged, hilly, and covered with a mixed oak-hickory forest. The recreation area lies in the western most part of the Pennyrile region, also known as the Mississippian Plateau. The landscape is considered to be a Karst area, with streams cutting through limestone valleys and the hills capped with more resistant sandstone.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 44 50 59 70 78 85 90 88 82 71 59 48
Nightly lows (°F) 25 29 38 46 55 63 68 66 59 47 38 29
Precipitation (in) 3.8 4.5 4.6 4.4 5.1 4.2 4.0 3.2 3.5 3.3 4.9 4.7

The Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area experiences a multi-seasonal climate. Summers are usually hot and humid, while the winters are moderate. Spring weather is often unstable and brings the greatest risk of storms.

Get in

There are four major routes into the recreation area. I-24 and US 62 provide access to the north. US 68 runs through the central part of Land Between the Lakes and US 79 provides access to the south.


Get around

The Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway, also known as The Trace, is a 43 mile highway that runs north to south in the recreation area. This highway forms a backbone from which most of the roads within the recreation area branch off of.




There are many miles of paved and unpaved roads to explore within the recreation area. Bikes are also allowed on the Canal Loop and North South trails.


Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley combined offer almost 220,000 acres of water to fish from. Besides the two large lakes, there are many small lakes and ponds within LBL. All applicable state fishing licenses are required.


Land Between the Lakes offers over 200 miles of hiking trails to explore.

Long Distance Trails

Short Trails

Horse Riding and Camping

The recreation area offers over 100 miles of horse trails and many more miles of roadways. Wranglers Campground is designed to accommodate horses and their riders.


LBL offers annual spring turkey and squirrel hunts, fall/winter hunts for deer, waterfowl, and a variety of small game species. Hunters can also enjoy a variety of camping choices, from the convenience of developed campgrounds to the rustic adventure of camping LBL's back-country.

All hunters must have an LBL Hunter Use Permit and applicable state licenses. To hunt deer with firearms, hunters must apply during the month of July and be drawn for a quota deer hunt permit. To hunt during the first several days of spring turkey season, hunters must apply during February and be drawn for a quota turkey hunt permit.

OHV Riding and Camping

The Turkey Bay Off Highway Vehicle Area is the only area in the recreation area designated for OHV use. There are over 100 miles of trail to explore and camping is allowed at designated areas along the lake shore and Forest Road 167. Riders are required to purchase an OHV permit and sign a waiver of liability.

Water Activities

Since the recreation area is surrounded by water, there are almost limitless opportunities to enjoy water activities. There are many boat ramps located in Land Between the Lakes. Canoes are available for rental at the Woodlands Nature Station and Lake Energy Campground.


There are gift shops at The Homeplace, welcome stations, visitor center, and the Woodlands Nature Station.


Other than vending machines, there are no eating establishments within the recreation area. Visitors should plan on bringing in their own food to prepare or visit one of the surrounding communities or state parks.


There are no alcohol sales within the recreation area. In Kentucky, McCracken and Trigg counties are wet, as is the city of Murray. The communities of Calvert City and Kuttawa offer alcohol sales by the drink in larger restaurants. In Tennessee, alcohol sales are allowed in Henry County.



While there are no lodging options available within the recreation area, there are several surrounding towns and state parks that can provide accommodations.



Backcountry camping is allowed in most of the recreation area. A backcountry camping permit is required if staying overnight in the backcountry. Permits may be purchased for 3 nights or annually. If camping along the three long distance trails, the permits are free. Campsites may not be occupied for more than 14 consecutive days. Camping is prohibited in cemeteries, developed areas, or within 200 yards of roads.

Stay safe

A compass and appropriate USGS topographic maps are highly recommended when hiking in the backcountry. Many trails are sparsely blazed and intersections may have no signage whatsoever. There are no large predators in this area, but ticks and poison ivy can be found in abundance. If travelling in the backcountry during hunting season, it is advisable to wear bright colors or a blaze orange vest. Avoid greys, browns, and white as these are the colors of the White Tailed Deer. There is no gas available within LBL, if planning to spend a significant amount of time here make sure to fill up in one of the many surrounding communities.

Go next

Routes through Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

Paducah Aurora  W  E  Hopkinsville Bowling Green
Columbus Aurora  W  E  Hopkinsville Bowling Green

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 12, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.