Some 60 years ago, Russell Springs and Jamestown were just two little sleepy towns in Russell County minding their own business.
That all changed when Cumberland River was dammed up and 63,000-acre Lake Cumberland was created with 1,250 miles of shoreline.
Thousands of visitors from several nearby states and throughout Kentucky visit one of several marinas that have evolved along the lake. In addition to being one of the most beautiful lakes in the nation, Lake Cumberland is also one of the largest man-made lakes.
Russell Springs and Jamestown are still minding their own business, but they’ve added a whole lot more. These two towns, separated by five miles of roadway, are reaping the benefits of Lake Cumberland becoming a travel destination, especially during tourist season, which generally runs from April through October.
There’s no mistaking that the lake is the draw. With four commercial marinas in Russell County, and Lake Cumberland State Resort Park only a few miles from Jamestown, it’s easy to see why.
State Dock at the resort park may well be the houseboat rental king. They’ve got a fleet of them, some as large as 80 feet long with up to six bedrooms. Of course, if it’s just some leisure fishing you want to do, boats are available for that, too.
The county, particularly along the lake, is dotted with lodging opportunities from motels to cabins, and campgrounds. And then, of course, the state resort park offers its traditional lodging and dining facilities, plus a neat little nine-hole, par 3 golf course. There’s also the 18-hole Links Public Golf Course at Lily Creek Resort.
Naturally, when the sun is out and the weather is good we know where you’ll probably be—on the lake. However, when you want to take a break or the clouds move in, there’s still plenty to do in the area.
There are two houseboat manufacturers in Russell County and they are delighted when visitors stop in.
Jamestowner Houseboats, (270) 343-3459, and Funtime Houseboats, (270) 866-7999, are within a short distance of each other, and a visit to one of these just might lead to you owning a boat. They would prefer you call in advance to let them know you are on the way.
The Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery is open for guests to come by and feed the trout. This can be an educational side trip if you’ve got children in your group. The hatchery produces one million fish a year.
Seasonal plays and musical productions are a staple of the 1950s vintage Star Theater in downtown Russell Springs. And in Jamestown, you may want to try your luck at playing the horses with a visit to Kentucky Off-Track.
Highway 127, which runs between Russell Springs and Jamestown, is sprinkled with antique and craft shops as well as several intriguing flea markets.
Lake Cumberland is often called the Houseboat Capital of the World. Houseboat rentals on the lake are a huge business. There are more than 500 houseboats available to rent, and at least five surrounding counties now have factories that build them.
The reputations of houseboat builders from Russell Springs, Somerset, Monticello, Columbia, and Albany are known far and wide.
For More Information
Russell County Tourist Commission
Indian Hills Resort, Alligator II Marina, and KOA
2108 Highway 1383, Russell Springs
Jamestown Resort & Marina
3677 S. Highway 92, Jamestown
628 N. Main Street, Jamestown
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park
5464 State Park Road, Jamestown
Popplewell’s Alligator Dock #1
6959 Highway 76, Russell Springs
549 Main Street, Russell Springs
State Dock at Lake Cumberland
6365 State Park Road, Jamestown
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park
The Links at Lily Creek
500 Lily Creek Road, Jamestown
Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery
U.S. 127, Jamestown
Gary West is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
Frolicking through fields of wildflowers is a sure sign that spring has returned and nature is alive and well.
Wildflower walks are increasing in both number and popularity across the Commonwealth, and are offered by many state and national parks each spring.
From the botanists who can endlessly spout scientific names of flora, to those whose expertise is limited to exclaiming, “Look, how pretty!” these restorative springtime jaunts offer both exercise and aesthetics for participants, often at little or no cost.
Jason Weese, park naturalist at Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade, is helping to coordinate the 25th annual Wildflower Weekend, May 5-8. The event, co-sponsored by the Kentucky Native Plant Society, includes dozens of field trips throughout the park and Red River Gorge National Geologic Area, expertly guided by Kentucky botanists.
“At Natural Bridge, we have more than 1,000 species of native plants, and many of them are pretty spectacular bloomers,” Weese says. “In the wildflower peak of late April to early May, we can have over 100 in bloom at once.”
Guest speakers include Dr. Ronald L. Jones, an author, professor of biological sciences, and herbarium curator at Eastern Kentucky University. Also on hand will be Julian Campbell, botanist for the Kentucky chapter of The Nature Conservancy, to discuss endangered savanna ecosystems.
With vibrant sprays of lady’s-slippers, showy orchids, and jack-in-the-pulpits to admire, Carter Caves State Resort Park in Olive Hill will host a three-day Wildflower Pilgrimage, April 22-24. Park naturalist Coy Ainsley says the area is known for its hilly terrain and its plant life. “It’s one of the most diverse areas in this part of the country for seeing wildflowers,” Ainsley says.
Protecting more than 116,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau in both Kentucky and Tennessee, Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area’s peak wildflower season spans from late April to early May, with flowers easily viewed from trails along the Big South Fork River. The park also features a 400- to 500-feet deep gorge through the sandstone of the Cumberland Plateau, and natural sandstone formations, spokesman Steven Seven says.
But if you don’t know your spring vetch from your spring beauty, or your henbit from your horse nettle, don’t hang your head like a white trout lily. Read up on the state’s wildflowers before your trip with Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky by Thomas G. Barnes and S. Wilson Francis. Once you’ve mastered the spring wildflowers detailed in the book, you’ll then be ready for summer and fall species, which are also outlined.
In an annual ritual, more than 20,000 acres of countryside discard their drab winter-wear and put on a spectacular springtime show of color at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
Park Ranger Janice Miracle says she likes nothing more than watching visitors react with wonder and excitement at the wildflower buds unfurling in the spring sunshine, right before their eyes.
“It’s nature coming alive,” she says.
Here are a few places across Kentucky where you can participate in wildflower walks, either on your own or on a guided tour:
Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area
Wildflowers peak late April-early May. Free admission. Visitors can also take the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, (606) 376-3550, April-October, into Big South Fork NRRA.
Carter Caves State Resort Park
344 Caveland Drive, Olive Hill
Wildflower Pilgrimage, April 22-April 24. Most events free. Friday night slide presentation. Moderate two-hour hikes; medicinal plants/herbs seminar Saturday.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
U.S. 25 E, Middlesboro
Two free, ranger-guided spring wildflower walks: Forest in Bloom, 10 a.m., Sunday, April 17. Hills of Color, 10 a.m., Saturday, May 21.
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
7351 Hwy. 90, Corbin
Natural Wonders series , April 30-May 1. Several one-mile walks. Evening wildflower programs. $15 each, children under 16 free. Registration deadline April 25.
John J. Audubon State Park
3100 U.S. Highway 41 North, Henderson
Wildflower Extravaganza, 9 a.m. (CST), Saturday, April 9. Wildflower hikes and children’s activities. $1 per person per guided hike.
Mammoth Cave National Park
I-65 Exits 53 or 48, Mammoth Cave
Wildflower Walk, Saturday, April 16 (time to be announced), at the park. Free.
Natural Bridge State Resort Park
2135 Natural Bridge Road, Slade
Wildflower Weekend, May 5-8. Guest speakers, field trips. $5 per adult, $2 per child ages 12-17.
Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.