The 10 Biggest Lakes In Kentucky

Cave Run Lake Kentucky
© Irina Mos/

Written by Taiwo Victor

Updated: October 31, 2023

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Kentucky is primarily known for horse racing, bourbon, fried chicken, tobacco, and bluegrass music. Lakes in Kentucky offer visitors a variety of recreational opportunities. Although the larger lakes were built for flood control and hydroelectric generation, they offer a variety of recreational opportunities, making a trip to Kentucky an excellent choice for fishing, boating, and swimming.

Rivers, parks, mountains, and caves are just a few of Kentucky’s natural wonders and beauty. Apart from Alaska, the state boasts the world’s longest cave system and more accessible miles of water than any other state! The state is also replete with natural and man-made lakes scattered throughout its vicinity, but some are larger than others. Below, we’ll explore the 10 biggest lakes in Kentucky.

The 10 Biggest Lakes in Kentucky

10. Taylorsville Lake

Taylorsville Lake Kentucky

Covering an impressive area of 3,050 acres, Taylorsville Lake is one the biggest lakes in Kentucky.


Taylorsville Lake is a 3,050-acre man-made lake in Spencer County, Kentucky. The US Army Corps of Engineers began its construction in 1974, and it is now an important source of revenue for Spencer County and a favorite fishing spot. Taylorsville, the county seat of Spencer County, inspired the lake’s name. Taylorsville Lake is replete with sights of blue herons feasting on the abundant shad in the lake. White crappie, black crappie, channel catfish, blue catfish, largemouth bass, striped bass, and freshwater drum perch are the most common fish species in the lake.

9. Rough River Lake

Rough River Lake

Rough River Lake measures up to 5,100 acres of surface area and is one of the biggest lakes in Kentucky.

©Laura G.Taylor/

With its 5,100 acres, Rough River Lake offers a wide range of outdoor recreational options. The US Army Corps of Engineers oversees Rough River Lake’s land and water for wildlife, fisheries, and leisure in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Boating, swimming, and hiking are among the recreational activities available at Rough River Dam State Resort Park. However, most visitors come for the wonderful fishing since the lake is home to a variety of bass.

The average crop in Rough River Lake is approximately 300 pounds of fish per acre. However, there are several locations at the lake where the yield is higher. Catfish, crappie, white bass, largemouth bass, spotted bass, hybrid striped bass, and bluegill are among the fish species found in this lake. Rainbow trout are supplied to the lake every month, and the total number of rainbow trout stocked each year reaches around 11,600.

8. Laurel River Lake

laurel river lake Kentucky

Located in the heart of Daniel Boone National Forest, Laurel River Lake spans 5,600 acres and is one of the state’s largest lakes.

©George Green, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / public domain – Original

Laurel River Lake, nestled in the unspoiled grandeur of the Daniel Boone National Forest, is a popular tourist site for thousands of people each year. The lake has 5,600 acres (2,300 ha) and features calm coves and a cliff-lined shoreline that provides leisure and quiet thought opportunities. Boating, fishing, skiing, and scuba diving are among the lake’s leisure activities.

The Laurel River is also among Kentucky’s cleanest and deepest lakes. Black bass, rainbow trout, walleye, crappie, bluegill, and catfish fishing are all popular in its waters. The lake is home to a resident population of gigantic Canadian geese and a migratory number of bald eagles. It’s also possible to see some local fauna, such as deer, that visit the shoreline.

7. Nolin River Lake

Nolin River Lake maintains one of the lowest drowning rates in Kentucky.

©Ken Crawford, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Nolin River Lake, which covers 5,795 acres and is located in the counties of Edmonson, Grayson, and Hart, was dammed from the Nolin River by the Corps of Engineers in 1963. The lake, however, ranges in size from 2,890 acres (11.7 km2) in the winter to its maximum capacity in the summer. Thanks to its unusual blue-green water, Nolin River Lake is among Kentucky’s top five lakes for catfish, bass, crappie, and walleye fishing. The bulk of the Nolin River’s route passes through Mammoth Cave National Park, making it highly picturesque and offering some of Kentucky’s best canoeing. Boating, camping, fishing, picnics, water sports, and animal viewing are all available at the lake.

6. Green River Lake

Green River Lake

Green River Lake is the fifth-largest lake in Kentucky.

© Johnson

While Green River Lake was designed to reduce flooding, it is now a popular tourist destination. Green River Lake is an 8,210-acre (33 km2) reservoir in Kentucky’s Adair, Taylor, and Casey counties. It has 1,331 acres of land that is now a state park with various attractions for visitors who enjoy nature and want to see the beauty of the Campbellsville, Kentucky area. Beginning in April, the state park will be awash in local and migratory breeding songbirds, which stay until the middle of the summer. Waterfowl abound on the lake throughout the winter, as seen from the state park’s coastline. The fishing for largemouth bass, channel catfish, muskellunge, and white crappie is also great in the lake’s waters.

5. Cave Run Lake

Cave Run Lake Kentucky

The 8,270-acre Cave Run Lake offers a habitat for many species of fish and wildlife.

©Irina Mos/

Cave Run Lake, nestled in the northernmost area of the Daniel Boone National Forest, is an 8,270-acre lake set in the magnificent highlands of eastern Kentucky. The US Army Corps of Engineers constructed it to defend against flooding, but it also provides a habitat for various fish and wildlife. Cave Run Lake protects the lower Licking River valley from flooding, supplies water to the local settlements, enhances the Licking River’s water flow, and serves as a habitat for various fish and wildlife.

Visitors to the lake will discover numerous options for leisure and enjoyment. The multiple activities available to visitors are boating, hunting, wildlife viewing, camping, fishing, hiking, and visiting historical sites. Cave Run Lake has a diverse range of fishing options. Crappie, musky, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and different panfish can all be found in Cave Run.

4. Barren River Lake

Built-in 1964, Barren River Lake has an outstanding surface area of 10,000 acres and is one of Kentucky’s biggest lakes.

©Ichabod / Creative Commons – Original / License

Barren River Lake is smaller than most Kentucky lakes, yet it still has an outstanding surface area of over 10,000 acres, encompassing sections of Allen, Barren, and Monroe counties. The Louisville Army Corps of Engineers built the lake in 1964 in south-central Kentucky. It sits close to Mammoth Cave National Park, home to the state‚Äôs longest cave system. Three big islands dot the lake, each roughly one square mile in size. Two enormous islands are located in the lake’s broadest area, while near the main boat ramp and campsite is another little island. The Barren River Lake State Resort Park boasts a shoreline that stretches for 141 miles (227 km). Its major draw is fishing, although it also offers boating and water skiing.

3. Lake Barkley

Lake Barkley

Covering more than 57,000 acres of surface area, Lake Barkley is the third biggest lake in the state.


Lake Barkley, located directly across from Kentucky Lake, has a magnetic attraction for visitors and lake enthusiasts. With 57,920 surface acres and over 1,000 miles of shoreline, Lake Barkley is a massive recreational lake in western Kentucky. The lake was established in 1966 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers by damming the Cumberland River following the construction of Barkley Dam. The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, which includes camping, hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife exhibits is surrounded by Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake to the west.

Seated at the eastern coast of the lake, Lake Barkley State Resort Park is one of those places with a little bit of everything. Bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, Kentucky bass, and largemouth bass are among the many species of fish found in Lake Barkley. You can rent fishing boats, canoes, and ski boats at the lake’s main marina.  

2. Lake Cumberland

Lake Cumberland area boasts the largest fleet of rental houseboats in the country.


Over four million people visit Lake Cumberland every year, making it among the largest and most visited lakes in the eastern United States. Its construction was primarily motivated by the need for flood control and hydroelectric power generation. At the maximum power pool height, the lake comprises 65,530 acres (265 km2) and has a shoreline of 1,255 miles (2,020 km). Lake Cumberland is a famous fishing spot with a reputation for producing great striped bass. Brown trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, sturgeon, and walleye are all state records. Apart from that, there’s another reason why so many people come here every year: the houseboats!

At Lake Cumberland, the unofficial Houseboat Capital of the World, boating is a favorite pastime. Lake Cumberland State Resort Park is located on the lake’s northern bank and offers a variety of activities such as swimming, hiking, and horseback riding.

1. Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake

The Kentucky Lake is the largest lake in Kentucky and the largest man-made lake in the eastern United States by area.

© Jennings

No other lake in Kentucky compares to Kentucky Lake in terms of size. The Kentucky Lake, which straddles Tennessee and Kentucky and covers five counties in each state, is the largest man-made lake in the eastern United States by area, encompassing 160,309 acres (648.7 km2). On this large lake’s northern and western banks are Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park and Kenlake State Resort Park. In the neighboring area, you’ll find the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, which provides plenty of wildlife viewing and bird-watching opportunities.

The most prevalent animals you’ll see at the refuge are white-tailed deer, with raccoons, squirrels, and foxes among the smaller species. More than 300 bird species, 51 mammals, 89 reptiles, and amphibians call the refuge home. The lake is also known for being one of the top fishing spots in the state. The lake’s fishing for largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegill attracts residents and visitors from western Kentucky. Buffalo carp, white bass, and yellow perch are all state records at this lake.

Honorable Mentions: Another Notable Large Kentucky Lake

Herrington Lake

Infographic for Herrington Lake, Kentucky
Herrington Lake is a reservoir created by damming the Dix River.

Herrington Lake is a reservoir that came about as a result of the damming of Dix River by Kentucky Utilities in 1925 in order to generate hydroelectric power. The lake covers 2,335 acres but is more notable for being the deepest lake in Kentucky with a maximum depth of 249 feet. Fishing is a popular pastime at Herrington Lake for its many fish species like catfish, bluegill, several varieties of bass, and crappie.

Summary Of The 10 Biggest Lakes In Kentucky

10Taylorsville Lake3,050 acres
9Rough River Lake5,100 acres
8Laurel River Lake5,600 acres
7Nolin River Lake5,795 acres
6Green River Lake8,210 acres
5Cave Run Lake8,270 acres
4Barren River Lake10,000 acres
3Lake Barkley57,920 acres
2Lake Cumberland65,530 acres
1Kentucky Lake160,309 acres

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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