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Buckhorn Lake

804 Buckhorn Dam Road
Buckhorn, KY 41721-8808
606-398-7251
Office hours: M-F, 7:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (may vary, call ahead)

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Welcome to the Buckhorn Lake website. The lake is situated in Leslie and Perry counties on the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River in the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau, offering the scenic beauty of the Appalachian Mountain Range. The dam is located near the small community of Buckhorn, Ky., about 100 miles southeast of Lexington and 30 miles west of Hazard. 

The 1,230 acre Buckhorn Lake and surrounding area offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. The Corps, in cooperation with the Commonwealth of Kentucky manages the land and water for wildlife, fisheries and recreation.

At Buckhorn Lake you can camp or picnic at one of four Corps operated recreation areas; fish, boat, swim or ski on Buckhorn Lake; hunt in the Buckhorn Lake Wildlife Management Area or Daniel Boone National Forest; walk numerous undeveloped trails; or enjoy a weekend getaway at the Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park. The menu on the right leads you to specific recreation and other lake information.

Buckhorn Lake was authorized under the Flood Control Act of 1938. The Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed, built, and operates the project to reduce flood damages downstream from the dam. The lake provides water supply and serves to augment low-flow conditions downstream in the interest of water quality control. In addition, the lake provides varied recreational opportunities.

During the fall and winter months, when excessive rainfall is likely, the lake is kept at a relatively low level referred to as winter pool. Should heavy rains occur, surface water runoff is stored in the lake until the swollen streams and rivers below the dam have receded and can handle the release of the stored water without damage to lives and property.

Buckhorn Lake is situated in the Cumberland Plateau of eastern Kentucky. This is an area that possesses a landscape as rugged and extraordinary as any found in the state. The plateau is deeply traversed by a series of narrow, winding valleys separated by steep watersheds and covered by a network of continuously branching streams. Originating in the southeast and flowing generally northwestward, the Kentucky River is one of this region's major rivers. The underlying mineral-bearing rock structure is sedimentary, consisting of sandstones and shale with alternating layers of coal that were deposited 250 million years ago during the Pennsylvanian Age of the Carboniferous Period. Mississippian Age limestone lies beneath the sandstones and shale, and where exposed and sculptured by winds and rains, the result has been impressive rock formations that contribute to the scenic beauty of the area.

Early settlers of Kentucky followed one of two routes into the region – either down the Ohio River or through Cumberland Gap. Many settlers were discharged Revolutionary War soldiers who were paid for their services in land by the new U.S. Government that had no funds for payment. The valleys, with their heavily wooded slopes and clear streams, made ideal homesteads.

The main means of transportation in this region were by buffalo traces and Native American trails. The buffalo traces, created by the buffalo in their quest for salt, followed the ridges and were wide, deep, and devoid of all vegetation. In contrast, the trails followed the waterways, and were narrow and only slightly depressed. The trails of the buffalo and Native Americans were later followed by explorers and hunters. Eventually these trails formed the basis for the highway system. Daniel Boone marked the first white man's highway through the mountains in 1775. The main trails of Eastern Kentucky connected with a vast system of trails that spanned the country north to south and east to west. The most notable of these was the Cumberland Gap Trail, called "Warrior's Path."

Presently, the region is being increasingly used for timber production. One area of remaining virgin timber is known as Lilley Cornett Woods. This 554-acre tract, located in Letcher County, was purchased in 1919 by Lilley Cornet, a Virginia coal miner, who preserved the tract intact until his death in 1958. In excess of 60 species of trees have been recorded in this tract, which is now owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and managed in cooperation with Eastern Kentucky University.

Buckhorn Lake offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. The lake is located in the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau, which is part of the scenic beauty of the Appalachia Mountain Range. Visitors may enjoy everything from day trips to group gatherings at their choice of four day-use recreation areas managed by the Corps of Engineers at Buckhorn Lake, or they may choose multi-week vacation getaways by taking advantage of the variety of camping opportunities available at each of the three campgrounds managed by the Corps at Buckhorn Lake. Other recreational opportunities at Buckhorn Lake include fishing, boating, swimming and water skiing. Visitors may also enjoy game hunting in the Buckhorn Lake Wildlife Management Area or Daniel Boone National Forest; walking numerous undeveloped trails; or simply enjoying a peaceful weekend retreat at the Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park.

With so many fun things to see and do at Buckhorn Lake, don’t forget to visit one of the many nearby historical, cultural and natural sites such as the Buckhorn Log Church, Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Red River Gorge Geologic Area, Carr Creek Lake and Carr Creek State Park and the Daniel Boone National Forest. Witness the beauty of the change of the seasons first hand each year from mid to late October. Also, be sure to visit one of many nearby fall festivals held annually in the communities surrounding Buckhorn Lake.

Buckhorn Lake has several picnic shelters at various recreation locations around the lake. The shelters may be reserved for family reunions, birthdays, weddings and other special group events.

A large shelter and a small shelter are available in the Buckhorn Tailwater Recreation Area. They may be reserved locally with the park attendant on duty or by visiting the Corps of Engineers office. You may also phone the Corps of Engineers at (606) 398-7251. The large shelter provides water and electric for a fee of $60. The small shelter does not provide water and electric and is reservable for a fee of $30.

Leatherwood Recreation Area has a small shelter which does not provide water and electric and is reservable through the Corps of Engineers office at (606) 398-7251 for a fee of $30.

Trace Branch Recreation Area has a large shelter with water and electric which may be reserved for a fee of $60. Reservations can be made with the Trace Branch Campground park attendants or at the Corps of Engineers office at (606) 398-7251.

Confluence Recreation Area has a small shelter with water and electric which may be reserved with the Trace Branch Campground park attendants or at the Corps of Engineers office at (606) 398-7251 for $30.

All shelters have grills and picnic tables.

Note: Golden Age and Golden Access Passport discounts for shelter reservations only apply when all users of the registered group possess the Passport.

Golden Age and Golden Access Passports are no longer issued at any Corps of Engineers project, but these are still accepted at all Corps of Engineers locations.

We can now issue America the Beautiful Passes at the Corps of Engineers office at Buckhorn Lake. Please call (606) 398-7251 for more information.

Visitors can also enjoy walking the Pine Shadows Trail. The trail covers approximately a .5-mile of pine-shaded wildlife and natural vegetation. The trail is moderate in difficulty and the first half of the looping trail is uphill. Visitors should be aware of the threat of poison ivy and animals native to any wooded area. Parking is available in the Tailwater Recreation Area.

Those wishing to stretch the legs a bit farther may enjoy walking the Stillhouse Branch Nature Trail. This newly constructed trail will cover approximately 2.5 miles when completed and runs along the Stillhouse Branch State Nature Preserve area that is adjacent to the Dam and Tailwater Recreation Area. Trailheads are located near the Dam Site Boat Ramp lower parking lot and near the main entrance gate. The trail is moderate in difficulty and runs mostly along hilly terrain with open rock outcrop formations. The views of the Lake as visitors walk along the ridge and the uniqueness of the surrounding old-growth forest offers plenty to satisfy any day-hike experience. Visitors should be aware of the threat of poison ivy and animals native to any wooded/rocky terrain area. Parking is available near the Dam Site Boat Ramp.

Hikers can explore the natural beauty and resources of Buckhorn Lake State Resort with a stroll along a 1.5 mile, self-guiding, easy walking trail.

The opportunities for mountain day-hiking are limitless.

Visitors should be aware that all camping at Buckhorn Lake is only allowed in designated camping areas.

Buckhorn Lake has many unique camping opportunities to offer outdoor enthusiasts throughout the spring, summer, and fall recreation seasons. Enjoy RV camping with amenities such as city water, electricity and wi-fi, or the peaceful tranquility of shoreline tent camping. Buckhorn Lake has it all. Reservations are available through the www.recreation.gov website or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

The Buckhorn Campground offers visitors a choice between 31 developed campsites and 18 overflow and primitive campsites. This fee campground is near the Buckhorn Dam and is situated parallel to the Buckhorn Lake Tailwater Recreation Area and the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River. Amenities include free wifi, vending machines, modern restrooms, laundry facility, picnic shelters, playground and basketball court.

Trace Branch Campground is located within the Trace Branch Recreation Area on the shoreline of Buckhorn Lake. This fee campground offers visitors developed shoreline camping with water and electrical hook-ups available on 28 sites. The proximity of the large day-use recreation area accompanied by the Buckhorn Lake shoreline is sure to make this campground a family favorite. Amenities include modern restrooms, picnic shelters and basketball court.

The Boat-In Camping area contains 15 shoreline campsites in more of a wilderness setting. The fee camping area is located near the Buckhorn Lake Emergency Spillway Gates and is within rowing distance of the Buckhorn Dam and boat ramp area. This primitive tent campground offers visitors seclusion but with access to basic necessities. Sites cannot be reserved in advance and campers may contact the Buckhorn Campground office at (606) 398-7220 for payment and site availability information. Facilities at the Boat-In Camping area include port-a-john toilets, a trash disposal station, potable drinking water, and security lighting. Campsites are complete with picnic table, fire ring, lantern post and tent pad. A path of Class-I sand directs visitors to each campsite.  Our newest additions include a playground and a 6-slip courtesy docking system.

Also, camping can be found at the newly constructed Eagle's Landing Campground, which is operated by Perry County Tourism. This campground is located at Gays Creek, Kentucky. The Kentucky State Resort Park at Buckhorn Lake, operated by the State Departement of Parks, does not offer camping facilities at this time.

Golden Age and Golden Access Passports are no longer issued at any Corps of Engineers project, but these are still accepted at all Corps of Engineers locations.

We can now issue America the Beautiful Passes at the Corps of Engineers office at Buckhorn Lake. Please call (606) 398-7251 for more information.

For additional information about any event, please call 606-398-7251.

January - March: Winter Elk Watches. Contact Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park for schedule and additional information (606) 398-7510.

April : Special Buffet and Free Egg Hunt for Children 12 and under at the Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park.

April: Lakeshore Clean-Up at Buckhorn Lake. This event is co-sponsored by the Buckhorn Scenic Trails Association and Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park. Date TBA

 

May 01 : Buckhorn Campground opens for the 2015 camping season. For advance reservations call 1-877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov.

 

May 01: Buckhorn's Boat-In Camping area opens for the 2015 season. Sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please call (606) 398-7220 for more information.

May 01: Trace Branch Campground opens for the 2015 camping season. For advance reservations call 1-877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov.

May: Pioneer Appalachian Mountain Life. Enjoy an intriguing and educational weekend with seminars and workshops of mountain remedies through the ages. Will take place at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park. Date TBA

May-September: Interpretive programs at Buckhorn Campground on the 2nd Friday of the month

May-September: Interpretive programs at Trace Branch Campground on the 4th Friday of the month

July 4: Celebrate Independence Day at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park with fireworks, food and fun! Live entertainment.

September - December: Fall Elk Watches. Contact Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park for schedule and additional information (606) 398-7510.

September 24: National Public Lands Day

September 30: Boat-In Campground closes

September 30: Trace Branch Campground closes

October: Buckhorn Campground closes

October 28: Halloween in Buckhorn Campground (Trunk-or-Treat)

December 31: New Year's Eve celebration at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park.

Buckhorn Lake offers over 1,230 acres of water at summer pool for anglers. There are many different species of fish to be caught at Buckhorn Lake, such as muskie, crappie, catfish, white bass and bluegill. From April through November, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife regularly stocks the stilling basin, just below the dam, with trout. Our Daily Lake Information Line, which includes daily recorded fishing reports, lake elevations and upcoming events and other messages, can be reached by calling (606) 398-7157 or by using this link: Lake Temperatures during warm months.
Hunting is permitted in the Buckhorn Lake Wildlife Management Area as well as outside recreation and operations areas on the project. There is a large supply of rabbit, squirrel, turkey and deer to be hunted on the project. Non-commercial trapping, archery and black powder hunting are gaining popularity at the lake. Contact the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife for seasons, regulations and license requirements.

Note: Hunting, fishing, trapping and boating are regulated by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) . The KDFWR is headquartered in Frankfort, Ky. Their telephone number is (502) 564-4762 or dial toll free at 1-800-858-1549.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office:

The Corps of Engineers Office at Buckhorn Lake is located near the small community of Buckhorn, Ky. The office is generally open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. There may be times when the office is closed due to other staff work requirements. A wide variety of brochures and other information is available at the Corps of Engineers office. The telephone number is (606) 398-7251. The office mailing address is:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Buckhorn Lake
804 Buckhorn Dam Road
Buckhorn, KY 41721-8808


Questions about the Louisville District? Contact our Public Affairs Office by calling (502) 315-6768 or write us at:

USAED Louisville
P.O. Box 59
Louisville, KY 40201-0059


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