Occasional peeps by a strong March sun and a faint tint of green on hillsides remind that a brutal winter soon will pass and the vacation wonderland that is Lake Cumberland Country will come alive with water lovers.
“I am expecting a booming tourism season,” declared Carolyn Mounce, executive director, Somerset-Pulaski Convention and Visitors Bureau. “At shows my assistant, Van Back, and I attended this winter in Cincinnati, Louisville, Lexington and Indianapolis we found people enthused about Lake Cumberland ... that our lake is back!” exclaimed Mounce. “People are coming to Lake Cumberland (this summer) ... even people who didn’t come last summer, waiting to see for sure the lake is back to normal ... they are coming!” Lake Cumberland was held lower than normal for seven summers; until last summer when a $594 million rehabilitation of Wolf Creek Dam was completed.
Summer vacation time is just around the corner. Spring 2015 officially arrives March 20 and the new season signals opening of recreation areas along the more than 1,200 miles of Lake Cumberland shoreline. Lake Cumberland is currently higher than normal due to copious rainfall and melting from record February and March snowfalls, but the level will be drawn down as quickly as possible and is predicted to be at summer pool by May 15.
Recreation areas operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers include:
• Waitsboro Recreation Area, located off U.S. 27 north of Burnside, opens May 1. The campground offers 17 RV sites, all with electric hookups, and five tent-only sites. Eight of Waitsboro's sites are on the waterfront, making them prime locations for weekend recreation.
• Fishing Creek Recreation Area, located at the end of Ky. 1248 across from Pulaski County Park, opens May 1. The park has 46 campsites with water and electric hook-ups. Campsites will accommodate tents up to the largest RV’s. A playground is located in the day-use area next to the campground.
• Fall Creek Recreation Area, located off Highway 2393 about four miles from Conley Bottom Resort, opens May 1. It has a newly renovated 10-site campground.
• Cumberland Point Recreation Area, located off Daws Ridge Road near Nancy, opens May 15. It has 30 campsites with water and electric hook-ups.
Judy Daulton, park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said day-use areas at all Corps-operated campsites open April 1.
“I don’t think so,” was Daulton’s response when asked if rapidly rising Lake Cumberland and associated debris will affect early days of the upcoming camping season. “The lake today (Thursday) is 726 (feet above sea level) and it would have to rise to 734 before it begins to get on camping area,” Daulton noted.
Corps officials said the lake has a potential to rise to the 740 level if a predicted 3 inches of rain fall in the Cumberland River Basin late this week. However, latest forecasts indicate heavier rain may move farther north that earlier thought and less water would slow the lake rise.
Other nearby vacation destinations are:
• General Burnside Island State Park, located within the corporate limits of Burnside, will open its campground April 1. The campground features 94 sites with utility hookups, two central service buildings with showers and restrooms, and a dump station. The island state park’s Brian Ault-designed golf course is open year-round.
• Pulaski County Park, located off old Highway 80 near Nancy, opens April 1. The only county operated park on Lake Cumberland has campsites for rent with restrooms and shower houses, fish cleaning station, laundry station, seven shelters, two 18-hole disc golf courses, volleyball, basketball, hiking trails and two playgrounds.
• Bee Rock Campground, operated by the U. S. Forest Service, is located on London Ranger District. The park has developed campsites on both sides of the Rockcastle River. The Laurel County side, with 9 sites, is open all year. The Pulaski County side, with 19 sites, is open from mid-April through mid-October. An overlook along Bee Rock Loop Trail provides a scenic view of the rocks and cliffs along Rockcastle River. Bee Rock Boat Ramp provides river access.
• Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, encompassing 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, is open year-round. However, some facilities close during the winter. The Blue Heron Mining Camp near Stearns and nearby campground open April 1 as does the Scenic Railway.