Land Between the Lakes KY

Has anyone done a kayak trip on either Kentucky Lake or Lake Barkley? I was wondering about the possibilities of paddling in and back country camping. As I remember from being stationed near there in the early Nineties the lakes never freeze so this would be a winter trip to avoid the power boaters.

what little i know
lakes run north south and the winds on the main lakes can get fiesty…allthough you wont have pleasureboaters in the winter you will have barges that travel the main lakes and create some wave action… i think you will be able to camp along the shore of LBL …eat at Pattis before you go home…

Good trip, esp. in the ‘off’ season
We did a multi-day kayak trip there last fall. We paddled from Devils Elbow north down Lake Barkley, through the canal at Grand Rivers, then back south along Kentucky Lake to the Hwy 68 bridge. This route allowed us to get several miles of paddling in but with a very short shuttle/hike between the endpoints.

Many of the established campgrounds in LBL are situated on the water, so are easy to get to if you want, though we generally camped in undesignated ‘wilderness’ sites.

Maybe I’m spoiled by usually paddling on Lake Superior, but the water in LBL is muddy at best, and seems more industrialized (polluted) than I care for, even with a quality filter. So, we re-tanked our water bottles at the campground taps.

Good luck!


Sea Kayaker Magazine
If I remember correctly, there was a lengthy and very interesting article written in Sea Kayaker magazine about a couple guys that made the loop around the “land between the Lakes”. The article was so interesting we drove from southern Florida up there. The article is maybe 5-7 years ago. Maybe googling will real more information. Beautiful country!

Found it
October 2006 is the issue. I couldn’t find a digital copy so I ordered the paper copy, thanks.

After just one summer of paddling on Lake Superior, I got spoiled too, but I would have better luck ice skating on Lake Superior than paddling when we plan to go and unfortunately this is closer. I do love Superior though.

Warmer waters
Yeah, cold weather was our reason for looking inland when we paddled at LBL. We’d procrastinated planning a trip, and by the time we got around to it, autumn was well underway and the Great Lakes were getting unpredictable.

So we headed south to Kentucky, and had a great time. The paddling was great, though as I said, the water was a bit murky and perhaps not drinkable. This late in the season, you should have far fewer boaters, campers, and bugs, and perhaps more migrating water fowl.

Just stay out of the way of the river barges!

Where do you usually paddle on Superior?


dont drink the water.
Kentucky and Barkley lakes are the end of the Tennessee river and Cumberland river respectively. They have collected more than their share of unfilterables. On the Kentucky lake bank the lbl Nra extends for forty miles from mile 66 to 26 just before the dam. I have never paddled it but I do have a pretty awesome book about the Tennessee river to pull info from.

I don’t know if Kentucky lake drops in the winter like some of the other Tennessee river lakes, but they usually do this by the end of October. It can make for a muddy mess. The mountain lakes of east Tennessee are better in the winter and won’t have barge traffic.

Ryan L.

If you want info
The owner of Hoopers(downtown Paducah ky, outdoors shop) has done a few long trips on the river around LBL. it is very nice paddling in the winter.From oct to may is good for seeing Eagles if you are in the area.

My buddy and I made the full, round trip last year. We started at Dover by the bridge and went north on the Cumberland/Lake Barkley. We camped at the canal where it joins Kentucky Lake. The next day we paddled all the way to Paris Landing.

Total trip was about 100 miles and the total trip was about 36 hours, including camping/sleeping. We started at 7am Saturday and finished Sunday around 7pm. We were paddling surfskis.

We experienced high winds and big waves near Kentucky Penitentiary (northeast end of Lake Barkley). We had no issues filtering the lake water to drink. We had a good filter and it tasted fine to us; we didn’t get sick.

Munising and Grand Island. We will be back there next summer for several weeks with the family then a return trip of just my wife and I to circumnavigate Grand Island

I will give them a call when things get more finalized i.e. I talk my wife into a paddling trip in the middle of winter.