Lake Cumberland Kentucky
Updated: May 6, 2022
Lake Cumberland is located in Southern Kentucky and was built by the Army Corps of Engineers to end chronic flooding and create hydroelectric power and a great recreational area for people to enjoy and a tourism economy to thrive.
Our brood enjoyed Lake Cumberland for the following:
The water sports including fishing, boating, paddle boarding, kayaking swimming, and jumping off the houseboats.
Viewing waterfalls from the water
Cruising to new locations
The warm lake water
The ability to enjoy lake life in relative seclusion so we could spend more time with family without distractions
The Safe Harbor Marina staff were nice and helpful and the houseboats were great
For this trip we went with family and rented a house boat from Safe Harbor at Jamestown Marina. The marina was welcoming and had specific dock times to support everyone to get on and off the boats efficiently. We packed like we would any camping trip and used those lists to setup meal plans, packing lists for the kids. We made sure we had plenty of water toys and are thankful our in-laws were able to bring paddle boards, a zodiak power boat, extra lines to tie the houseboats to shore more efficiently. In preparation for the trip I also bought a week long fishing license on line. It was easy and I was able to print out the license after submitting payment. We didn’t see any law enforcement on the lake while we were there but it doesn’t hurt to be legal and we never mind supporting conservation by purchasing fishing licenses.
The marina does not have any room for RVs or travel trailers so we left the Class A at home and drove the toad to the marina. Our boat wasn’t quite ready so we spent a few minutes in the resort pool. My Father-in-law was able to bring a decent size, covered trailer for the zodiak and other supplies and toys from home. The boat launch and dock are in the same place. So, be prepared for a steep descent to the water and anyone who is worried about their vehicle rolling into the water will not like this setup. Make sure to set the parking brake. The marina has many two wheel carts. Inspect the carts as you grab them. Some had bad bearings or flat tires. We saw at least 60 carts and maybe six were set aside for repair. I think we loaded 6-10 carts for a 4-night stay and our brood of five. The carts operate well and my 10 year old was able to take loads from the truck to the boat.
Once everything was loaded on the boat, the marina staff gave us a walkthrough on how to operate the boat. Take your time with them as they talk fast. Have them show you twice and ask the stupid questions. They have pride in their work and an ounce of prevention with this conversation could prevent a pound of problems or breakdowns on the water later. We rented the Presidential model boat. It has six berths with sleep surfaces and is set up for at least two families. We had 3 couples and 5 kids on board and the accommodations worked great. The Presidential has air conditioning, two bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, front and back decks, a tube slide, hot tub, and other amenities that can be viewed in our other post found here and walkthrough on youtube here
Since we are discussing what to take on the trip here are some tips when on Lake Cumberland:
We had mobile phones and portable speakers for entertainment and used these a lot on the upper deck
Make sure you bring binoculars for viewing wildlife and other faraway things that catch your eye
Bring your own paper towels, paper plates, and plastic utensils if you don’t want to do a lot of dishes.
Make sure you bring all the seasoning you need. We forgot capers for a specific meal and cinnamon.
You may want to bring extra blankets or pillows if the minimum is not enough. Extra blankets also helps kids sleeping together to share the mattress and sleep well.
Pack a brush or other tool to clean pots and pans.
Pack a lighter for starting campfires or birthday candles if you are celebrating. Also bring marshmallow roasting sticks for s'mores.
Bring firewood and supplies to start a fire on a beach. I wish I had brought fatwood fire starter sticks
Bring camp chairs for the back swim platforms and generally extra seating and for chairs on the beach
Pack plenty of ice and coolers. With a full boat of people there isn’t enough freezer/refrigerator space to keep drinks cold.
If you have more than one houseboat bring portable cb radios or at least walkie talkies. We found them helpful for our group. The boat does have ship-to-shore radios and cell phones work more than half the time on the lake.
The marina staff will take you away from the dock and tender you out into the lake. They will also return you to the dock so you don’t have to worry about getting in and out of the marina. Once underway pay attention to your location. We had good GPS because our in-laws are sail boat racers and have the technology. There is a map on the wall of the boat. You can bring a dry erase marker to plot your route on the map to help guide your way. As you get into the lake you will quickly notice that the lake looks the same from everywhere with very few landmarks to guide your way. We did not have any bad weather during our trip. So, we felt the houseboat to be very sound and it was not affected by the waves. We did have one storm roll through while we were tied to shore. Thankfully, we turned the engines on and steered towards the wind to prevent a line or boat cleat from breaking.
The lake is great for many types of recreation. The water is very calm in the morning and is great for kayaking, paddle boarding, water skiing, fishing, swimming and floating on rafts. Our brood really enjoyed the slides and jumping off the top deck. By the end of the trip we were diving, flipping, cannonballing, jackknifing, and sliding in the water as much as we could. We noticed that if you soap the slides they are smoother and quicker. We also saw wakeboard boats, Fountains, and other racing boats, but were not affected by traffic or their waves. The houseboat had a calming effect. We couldn’t drive fast and so it made for a relaxing experience. The waves did pick up a little in the afternoon but we were surprised at how calm the water was during our whole trip.
The shore was cliff and crushed stone. There are a few places to tie up that have flat ground to walk the beach and have a campfire and explore. One night we tied up and had a great camp fire with s’mores. In August, the Perseid meteor shower was alive and well. We saw the meteors light up the sky. Get away from the campfire and lights of the boats and look up. It didn’t take long for us to see shooting stars and a great night sky.
On the same beach, we explored the geology and found geodes. If you are not familiar with geodes they are ball shaped rocks that have crystals inside. If you look closely on the rock walls you can see geodes stuck in the cliff or the crystals of the geode exposed. They are multicolored on the inside but most of them are white that we noticed. Intact the ball shaped outer that holds the secret mineral crystals inside are the same color as the rest of the rock on the shore. It takes a lot of focus to find them. Basically, your eyes will start to hurt as you focus and then, all of the sudden, a geode will appear on the beach and you score. Open the geode with a flat crow bar or chisel and a hammer to split them into hemispheres.
If you want a party go to 76 Falls. The location is home to a beautiful waterfall that you can go behind and through. We saw many houseboats and other boats tied up nearby. So, we parked our houseboats away from the falls and took our paddleboards and other toys to the falls. We had many offers for our massive inflatable duck. There is a lot of music and a lot of partying. Everyone was nice and friendly and it was fun to watch the variety of ways people chose to enjoy the water. We saw a huge inflatable pink cadillac.
In summary you get what you pay for with the houseboat and we got a great time. The houseboats are seaworthy and easy to drive and navigate. Here is a link to Safe Harbor rentals. Our brood enjoyed playing in the water and traveling by houseboat. There was no traffic except at 76 falls and we found quiet places to stay every night. We've been to the Ozarks, Lake Powell, and now Lake Cumberland. Our brood would rank Lake Cumberland at the top of that list. Let us know if you’ve been to Lake Cumberland. Also, let us know if you have any questions. We had a great time and hope you enjoyed our notes and pictures. Make sure to check out the more detailed post if you want to learn more about the houseboat and check YouTube for video.