A native grass prairie restoration project, near the dam, is representative of what "The Barrens" looked like to early pioneers.
Anglers, boaters and campers are only the most recent people to enjoy the beauty and natural resources of the Barren River Region. As early as 12,000 B.C., Native Americans fished, boated, and lived along the river's floodplain and terraces, and on the bluffs overlooking it. These people lived in small groups that moved often. Around 1,000 B.C. they moved more into farming and built more permanent settlements. By A.D. 900 farming was a way of life and archeologists refer to these farmers as the Mississippians.
Native Americans periodically burned off parts of this region, to provide grasslands that were attractive to grazing buffalo. Thus, this area without trees, appeared to be "barren." This area then came to be known as "The Barrens" to early pioneers that came to this area in the 1700s to settle and live.
The counties of Barren, Allen and Monroe were formerly part of Green and Warren counties and were established around 1797. Originally the entire territory had been set aside for military service grants for veterans of the Revolutionary War.
Port Oliver, near the dam, was formerly called Port Oliver Ford, and was the site of a brine-well field for producing table salt. Baileys Point Recreation Area was the site of an antebellum farmhouse, built by early settlers to the area, named Foster. A family cemetery remains with gravestones and stone vaults that date back to the early 1800s.