Located within the Daniel Boone National Forest, Laurel River Lake is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts both young and old. The lake is surrounded by cliffs and has almost 200 miles of shoreline. Built in 1977 by the Army Corps of Engineers, this reservoir stretches into Laurel and Whitley counties in southern Kentucky.
The dam is found on the Laurel River which is a tributary of the Cumberland River and is responsible for the countless water-based activities at this COE lake. There are beaches where you can relax, swim, and picnic. Navigate the endless coastline in a canoe or kayak on the calm, clear waters. Cast your line into the water to catch some fish or go hiking in the pristine wilderness of the neighboring forest. Whatever your ideal outdoor activity, this place has it.
There are no COE campgrounds at Laurel River Lake, but its position in the Daniel Boone National Forest means you can easily find a campground close by. Just over an hour and a half from Lexington, this Army Corps of Engineers lake is the perfect place to get away from it all.
The drive south from Lexington is on well-paved roads that are suitable for larger RVs and trailers. As you drive through Daniel Boone National Forest, the road becomes more winding and the possibility of low hanging branches and debris on the road increases.
There is parking at the Laurel River Lake Dam as well as the campgrounds and recreation sites that surround the lake.
Holly Bay Campground, part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, sits directly on the west side of Laurel River Lake. Only two miles from the dam, there are 47 campsites here with both electric and water hookups. Your trailer or RV up to 50 feet in length will find the campsites accommodating.
The forested location as well as the proximity to the water (some sites are waterfront), make this campground popular. It is recommended that you make a reservation during the open season from May to October.
Use the boat ramp to get on the water, take a swim, or have a challenging game of horseshoes. There are restrooms, showers, an ice machine, and drinking water available here.
Wade into the shallow water on the sandy beach at the Laurel River Lake Picnic Area. The gradual slope is ideal for kids and adults to feel comfortable. Convenience is key at this lovely beach with picnic facilities and restrooms close by.
With so much coastline, there are tons of beaches for swimming at Laurel River Lake. Try Spillway Beach for a swim in the clear water with a view of cliffs. The water is warm and inviting.
Don't be surprised to see visitors in scuba gear at Laurel River Lake. There is a submerged rock formation that is popular with divers and the clear water makes it easy to explore.
It's easy to spend an entire day at the Laurel River Lake Picnic Area. Bring all your gear and set up camp. This area is an ideal spot for picnicking since there are ample private picnic spots that each have their own grill.
There are restrooms near the playground and there is direct access to the water via the sandy beach for swimming, kayaking, or fishing.
Daniel Boone National Forest also has its share of scenic picnic areas. Try the Flatwoods Picnic Area on the shores of the lake for more outdoor dining variety.
Motorized boats are welcome on Laurel River Lake. You'll also see fishing boats and canoes and kayaks scattered around the lake. This Army Corps of Engineers lake wants to get everyone on the water. There are a total of eight boat ramps available for use on the shores of Laurel River Lake. Among the more popular are the boat ramps at Flatwoods, Holly Bay, Craigs Creek, and Laurel Bridge.
Due to the changing depths and terrain of the lake, stay diligent when boating. There are many different markers and buoys identifying specific areas and obstacles to watch out for.
The countryside at Laurel River Lake does not disappoint and neither do the trails. At the dam site, pick up the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail. It's 4.2 miles long and can take you directly to Holly Bay.
There is also the Laurel River Lake Trail. Near Corbin, this loop trail is almost three miles in length and suitable for hikers of all skill levels. The total elevation gain is around 275 feet and the trail can be used for hiking and even rock climbing year-round.
Anglers flock to this COE lake for the chance to reel in catfish, black bass, crappie, bluegill, rainbow trout, and walleye.
You can fish for various species of sport fish year-round at Laurel River Lake. In the spring, the smallmouth bass are easier to catch since they are in the shallows waiting for the water to warm up. In the summer, larger walleye can be caught at night and night fishing for trout is also popular.
Consult the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife for information on regulations and licensing. Usually, a fishing license can be purchased at local stores or marinas.
This lake is a popular spot for wildlife. The water and the surrounding forest offer a diverse habitat for both birds and mammals.
Head to the backwaters or a quiet bay to view the resident Canada geese. This area is so nice that bald eagles even choose to winter here. The 192 miles of shoreline at Laurel is a common place to see deer grazing.