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Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area
IUCN Category V (Protected Landscape/Seascape)
Location Lyon and Trigg counties in Kentucky and Stewart County in Tennessee, USA
Nearest city Dover, Tennessee
Area roughly 170,000 acres (688 km²)
Established 1963
Governing body United States Forest Service
This image shows some of the structures that are part of "The Homeplace".
Aerial view of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, with the Land Between the Lakes at the lower left
Sunrise over the "Land Between the Lakes" NRA from an airplane on August 7, 2007

The Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area is a United States National Recreation Area located in Kentucky and Tennessee between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. The area was designated a national recreation area by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The recreation area was originally managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority but jurisdiction has since been transferred to the United States Forest Service.



The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers flow very close to each other in the northwestern corner of Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, separated by a rather narrow and mostly low ridge. This area where they are only a few miles apart had been known as "Between the Rivers" since at least the 1830s or 1840s. After the Cumberland River was impounded in the 1960s and a canal was constructed between the two lakes, Land Between The Lakes became the largest inland peninsula in the United States. Downstream from this area, the courses of the rivers then diverge again, with the result being that the mouth of the Cumberland into the Ohio River is approximately 40 mi (64 km) from that of the Tennessee.


Government first began to have a major impact on the area when the Confederate government built Fort Henry on the banks of the Tennessee, presumably to protect the upper reaches of that river from Union gunboats. (Initially, Kentucky had declared its neutrality in the American Civil War.) When Fort Henry fell in early 1862, there was little more Civil War action in the area, which was judged to be too devoid of valuable war resources to deserve much attention from either side, and it went back to its somewhat isolated ways. The next major event in the area, other than calls for men to fight in the Spanish-American War and World War I, was the formation of the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. The site of the last dam downstream on the Tennessee was to be Gilbertsville, Kentucky. The resulting impoundment, completed in the early 1940s, Kentucky Lake, flooded some of the lowlying land on the western side of the area, resulting in the condemnation of land and the forced removal of some area farmers. This was very unpopular with some of those affected, while others seemed happy to get an opportunity to sell their land and start a new life in a less remote area.[1]

A plan was developed shortly after this to use the United States Army Corps of Engineers to dam the Cumberland in such a way that the two lakes would be at the same elevation, and the two streams could then be connected by a canal without the need for any locks. This would considerably lessen the shipping distances for goods going to ports on the Gulf of Mexico for products leaving the Cumberland Valley. This was completed in the 1960s and the resulting impoundment referred to as Lake Barkley, after Alben W. Barkley, a Kentuckian who had served as Vice President under President Harry S. Truman. But this plan called for far more than a new dam – it called for the evacuation of the entire former "Between the Rivers" area, even though relatively a small amount of it was to be flooded. The area was to become Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area – a TVA experiment designed to show a multiple-use approach to recreational lands. Unlike a national park, there were to be areas where hunting would be allowed. Over time, many other attractions were to be developed, such as a buffalo range, and a recreated 1850-style farm called "The Homeplace", complete with an on-site staff simulating life on the farm in period costume and working it using period agricultural techniques. (Both of these attractions were added in the 1970s.) The road through the Tennessee portion was renamed from State Route 49 to "The Trace", which is what many roads and paths were called in pioneer times.

Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area.

All of this came with a large price, human as well as financial. A great number of the area residents resented immensely the condemnation of their lands, especially when it was explained to them that most of the area was not to be flooded but rather to become a park. Some felt that they were being singled out as the mostly-impoverished and poorly educated of society to be taken advantage of by their government. Several even armed themselves with shotguns, determined to stop the condemnation, but beyond perhaps a few punctured tires little actual violence ever occurred. The former settlements of Tharpe, Tennessee, Model, Tennessee, and Golden Pond, Kentucky were forcibly abandoned. The remains of a former iron furnace, manned in the 1850s by slave labor, are about all that remains of Model. Golden Pond was replaced by the headquarters of the area and retained as the postal address for it. There is a museum, a planetarium, and an environmental education area there.

The area has many miles of hiking trails, many boat ramps, an off-road vehicle area, many campgrounds, and group lodges and a few cabins. Most of the activities other than overnight lodging were initially "free"; now most have a "user fee".

In the 1990s, the directors of the TVA made the decision to get out of most activities requiring direct taxpayer funding. This was allegedly done in order to pare down the agency to essentially its electrical-generating function in order to prepare for the deregulation of energy markets; critics said (with some reason) that this violated the spirit and probably even the letter of the original 1933 Act establishing the agency. Nonetheless, Land Between The Lakes became just the sort of "non-core" operation that the TVA was looking to shed, and in 1998 it transferred operation of the area to the U.S. Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. Upon learning of this plan, many of the area's original inhabitants and their descendants and heirs began to lobby for the return of most or all of the area to their ownership on the grounds that it was no longer being used for the purpose given when it was condemned; so far this argument has not succeeded.


  1. ^ Nickell, David (May/August 2007). "Between the Rivers: A Socio-historical Account of Hegemony and Heritage". Humanity & Society 31: 164–209. Retrieved 2008-03-14.  

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

North America : United States of America : South : Kentucky : Western Waterlands : 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.

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