| WORTH THE TRIP
Picturesque Lake Cumberland
Lake Cumberland and Russell County offer loads of fun for the entire family
Picture the clearest blue-green water you’ve ever seen. Then imagine that water in abundance, in a 101-mile-long lake in south-central Kentucky within easy driving distance of anywhere in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio.
That’s what you’ll find in Russell County, home to beautiful Lake Cumberland where fishermen catch their limits of bass, trout, crappie, and big stripers; where houseboats cruise to tie up in secluded coves; where big power boats run full out in a gigantic poker run; where runabouts pull water skiers and wave runners dart across wakes; and where people from all over the United States come to enjoy a monstrous lake with many wide and inviting offshoots, called creeks. The views are unspoiled and stunning. And there’s more of Lake Cumberland in Russell County than in any other county; it’s truly the heart of the lake.
Lake Cumberland was formed when Wolf Creek Dam was built on the Cumberland River in the early 1950s. In recent years, the lake has been lowered to 680 feet above sea level (instead of its normal summer pool of 723 feet) for repairs to the 60-year-old dam, but—contrary to urban rumor—there is plenty of water in Lake Cumberland.
Repairs to the dam have been completed ahead of schedule, so the lake will be between 700 and 705 feet this summer, according to Don Getty, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
James Flatt, manager of Indian Hills Alligator II Marina, one of four full-service marinas in Russell County, says, “The lake’s never been as low as people might think, and it’s going to be almost back to normal this year. But because of the lowered lake level, fishing has been terrific.”
As beautiful and inviting as Lake Cumberland is, that’s not all there is to Russell County.
There’s Lake Cumberland State Resort Park, complete with a striking lodge and dining room overlooking a wide expanse of the lake, convention facilities, private cottages, campgrounds, tennis courts, a Frisbee golf course, horseback riding, hiking trails, and the State Dock—a privately owned marina complete with ship’s store, restaurant, and fleet of houseboats and other boat rentals.
Just across from Lake Cumberland State Resort Park and closer to the picturesque little city of Jamestown is Jamestown Resort and Marina, a world-class recreation destination with its own lodge, convention facilities, restaurant, cottages, ship’s store, and houseboat and pontoon rentals.
One of the most unique features of Russell County is a breathtaking rock formation below the dam near Creelsboro, called the Rock House Bottom. The huge limestone arch, estimated to be at least 300 million years old, was carved by natural forces, has a roof 60 feet high, and is some 120 feet wide. Scramble down a gentle hillside, walk through the gigantic formation,and you’ll encounter the tranquil Cumberland River on the other side. Native Americans are said to have taken shelter from the elements beneath the arch and buried their dead on top of it.
Another unusual attraction in Russell County is the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, located below Wolf Creek Dam near the Kendall Campground. Here you can take an engaging educational family journey through the life cycle of trout, from egg to full-grown fish. Each year, more than 100,000 people visit the hatchery, which includes a theater, gift shop, picnic area, wheelchair accessible fishing ramp, and a number of special events.
“The hatchery is a place for families to learn about the natural world around them,” James Gray, director of the hatchery, says.
The Cumberland River below the dam offers exciting fishing and has been called the Southeast’s premier river for trout. The Cumberland is one of America’s most scenic rivers, ringed with high bluffs and fertile river-bottom farmland. Onshore, you might see whitetail deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, minks, raccoons, blue heron, and even wintering bald eagles.
In Russell County, you’ll also find two public golf courses, a miniature golf course, movie theater, bowling lanes, two city parks, a skating rink, a mini-Indy go-cart track, live local theater, an airport, several antique dealers and craft shops, a number of specialty restaurants as well as fast-food emporiums, and plenty of accommodations, from motels and bed-and-breakfasts to cabins, cottages, and campgrounds.
To get to the heart of Lake Cumberland, take U.S. 127 from the north or south, or the Cumberland Parkway from the east or west. Russell County may be a little off the beaten path, but it’s certainly worth the trip!
Upcoming events in Russell County
For more information on all the attractions and events in Russell County, contact the Russell County Tourism Commission at (888) 833-4220 or go online to www.lakecumberlandvacation.com.
July 4-6 The Jamestown LakeFest, craft and food booths, antique car show and parade, a country music star stage show, and fireworks, (270) 343-4594
August 1-4 U.S. Highway 127 Corridor Yard Sale–the world’s longest yard sale runs through Russell County, (270) 866-4333, www.127sale.com
August 10 Lake Cumberland Raft-Up, hundreds of boats hook up for a gigantic party at this free, lake-wide event.
August 10 Run with All Your Hart, 4-mile run/walk, a celebration of the life of Dr. Sarah Roberts Hart, www.runwithallyourhart.3wayracing.com
August 16-17, 6 p.m. Friday, 12 p.m. Saturday, Lake Cumberland Bluegrass Festival, featuring local, regional, and national bands at the Indian Hills KOA, Russell Springs, (270) 566-1488 or on Facebook search for Lake Cumberland Bluegrass Festival
August 31, 8 p.m. Labor Day Celebration, enjoy a live band at the Lake Cumberland State Dock, (270) 343-2525, www.statedock.com
September 5-7 Hillbilly Fall Festival, Russell Springs, (270) 585-3815, www.russellspringskyrevitalization.com
September 6-8 Lake Cumberland Poker Run, the event of the year on Lake Cumberland; boats, food, live music, including the popular Caught Red Handed, (888) 782-8336, www.lakecumberlandpokerrun.net
September 11 Wounded Warriors Fishing Derby, Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, for veterans wounded in any war, (270) 343-3797, www.fsw.gov/wolfcreek/VisitorCenter.html
September 24, 9 a.m. Annual Catch a Smile Senior Fishing Derby, Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, (270) 343-3797, www.fsw.gov/wolfcreek/VisitorCenter.html
September 25-29 Lake Cumberland State Dock’s Antique Wooden Boat Show, 30-40 boats on display, (270) 343-2525, www.statedock.com