Recreational areas around Lake Cumberland are gearing up to open for the 2014 recreational season with optimism the lake will return to normal this summer. Normal or not, the lake will be at the 705-foot level, same as last summer, and still the third largest body of water east of the Mississippi River.
“The water is coming up ... the boat ramp is the same,” said Stephen Lutz, golf professional at General Burnside Island State Park. The golf course at the state park is open year-round and the camping area will open April 1 and remain open through October.
Lutz said the biggest improve-ment at the state park is what he calls “GolfNow,” an on-line procedure by which golfers use computers or smart phones to determine a tee time. “Occasionally, golfers get better discounts on-line than by calling the desk at the pro shop,” Lutz said.
The golf course at General Burnside State Park is one of the most challenging in the state. As described on the state park’s web page: “This newly designed Brian Ault Signature Series Golf Course is located on an island surrounded by Lake Cumberland and features a number of holes that overlook the lake plus the back nine holes offer a thrilling journey into some of the island’s untouched natural treasures. The par-71 course also features four sets of tees on each hole to accommodate different levels of play. A spacious driving range, a putting green, a chipping green and a practice sand trap have been added for pre-game warm-up and practice.”
Pulaski County Park near Nancy will open April 1. The 600-acre facility, located on the Fishing Creek arm of Lake Cumberland, has one usable boat ramp at the current lake level, according to Mike McQueary, assistant manager at the county-operated park.
Manager Vickie McQueary said between 1,000 and 2,000 people use the county park on an average summer weekend and the number approaches 5,000 during holiday periods.
SomerSplash Waterpark will open at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 24. Located at 1030 Ky. 2227 (old U.S. 27) north of Somerset, SomerSplash Waterpark is home to the largest lazy river in Kentucky, a 20,000-square-foot wave pool, water play structure with tipping bucket, 40-foot-tall single and double rider tube slides and three 40-foot tall waterslides.
There have been some slight changes in opening dates for recreational areas operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to Tom Hale, operations manager for the Eastern Kentucky area.
• Fishing Creek Recreation Area, located at the end of Ky. 1248 across from Pulaski County Park, opens May 2 and closes Sept. 7.
• Waitsboro Recreation Area, located off South U.S. 27 near Burnside, opens April 11 and closes Oct. 12.
• Cumberland Point Recreation Area, located off Ky. 761 in Wayne County, opens May 9 and closes Sept. 7.
• Kendall Recreation Area, located immediately below Wolf Creek Dam, opens March 28 and closes Nov. 16.
• Fall Creek Recreation Area, located off Highway 2393 approximately 4 miles from Conley Bottom Resort, opens May 2 and closes Sept. 28.
• Mill Springs Mill, the world’s longest overshot waterwheel, is located in Wayne County. The park opens May 1 and closes Sept. 30.
• 76 Falls, located at the end of Indian Creek, opens May 1 and closes Sept. 30.
• Wolf Creek Dam Overlook opens Memorial Day weekend and closes after Labor Day weekend.
• All other day use areas open April 1 and close Oct. 31.
Bee Rock Recreation Area, operated by the U.S. Forest Service, is located on the Pulaski-Laurel County Line and offers a picnic area, primitive camping sites and hiking trails. The Laurel County side of the park is open year-round and the Pulaski County side opens April 4 and closes Oct. 27.
Don B. Getty, manager of the Wolf Creek Dam Rehabilitation Project, has said repeatedly there is a “definite possibility” the lake could return to normal operation ahead of this summer’s vacation season. The lake Tuesday morning was 706.36 feet above sea level, more than a foot above the target of 705 feet.
The lake has been held lower than normal for seven years to repair Wolf Creek Dam. The $594 million rehabilitation of the dam is basically complete, but the level will be held at 705 feet, same as last summer, until an endangered species of minnows in the headwaters is protected.
Normal operation of the lake is pool state (723 feet) during the summer. However, even in normal operation, sufficient rainfall would be necessary to get the lake that high.