Explore the Shores Via Water Trails
Naturalists at Land Between the Lakes' Woodlands Nature Station offer guided tours of several of the region's scenic water trails during certain times of the year. Participants can bring their own kayaks and canoes or simply rent one from Land Between the Lakes for just $10/hour per person. (Be sure to bring along a personal floatation device or life jacket when on the water).
Visitors will enjoy picturesque views of nature and wildlife, as well as access to some of the lakes' region's finest fishing holes. History buffs will also enjoy a waterfront view of the Kentucky and Tennessee Civil War heritage through the Fort Donelson National Battlefield and Civil War Water Trail.
The Land Between the Lakes Water Trail Initiative
The Land Between the Lakes Water Trail Initiative, announced in 2016, is one of 11 projects sponsored by the National Park Service. The initiative will be completed in three phases. The first phase utilizes the 300 miles of natural shoreline in the recreation area located between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. Several water trails have been identified and posted already.
The second phase will encompass 186 miles of Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee River. The third and final phase will cover 118 miles of Lake Barkley and the Cumberland River.
Land Between the Lakes Water Trails Now Open
There are currently five posted trails, all with easy access points for kayaks and canoes to enter the water. Camping facilities, including developed, primitive and designated backcountry sites, are located nearby for visitors who wish to spend a few days exploring the waters. Visitors should plan to "pack it in and pack it out" during their visit, leaving the area free from litter and debris.
Water Trail Highlights
Ginger Bay Water Trail:
Routed through secluded bays and bluffs along Kentucky Lake and the Tennessee River in Stewart County, Tennessee, this water trail creates a pleasant escape for those who want to explore the region's natural wonders. The rocky shorelines are filled with fossils including crinoids, brachiopods and ancient clams. Wildlife viewing is also good along this trail, where bald eagles can be viewed year-round. Map
Fulton Bay Water Trail:
Located in Lyon County, Kentucky, on Lake Barkley and the Cumberland River, the Fulton Bay Water Trail is loaded with picture-perfect inlets well-suited for canoes and kayaks. The trail is designated as a wildlife refuge from November through March 15, which means the opportunities to view wildlife the remainder of the year are excellent.
The forested shorelines provide sophisticated bird watchers with a glimpse of green herons, tanagers, prothonotary warblers, eastern kingbirds and northern parulas. A variety of bird species establish their nests along this trail during the summer months and can be found foraging for food in these quiet waters each day.
Other attractions to look for along this 3-hour tour include the remains of the historic Fulton Furnace that once smelted down iron ore. Fragments of the glassy blue rocks that formed as a by-product can still be found along the shoreline and should be left in tact for future visitors to enjoy.
Visitors will also spot tiger swallowtails and zebra swallowtails, the butterflies that feed on the blooms of the buttonbrush flowers that abound along the edges of the bay during the mid-summer months. Map
Honker Lake Water Trail:
Wildlife lovers will enjoy this 180-acre lake located in Lyon County, Kentucky, along the lake impoundment off of Lake Barkley, where eagles, osprey, cormorants, beavers, deer and a variety of birds can be observed. This trail provides fishermen with great crappie fishing holes in the spring and elegant sunsets in the evening. This trail is calm and shallow and feeds into Hematite Lake, offering paddlers more waters to survey. Map
Kuttawa Landing Rookery Water Trail:
Visitors who lodge along Lake Barkley in Lyon County, Kentucky, can enjoy a waterside view of the breeding grounds of thousands of nesting wetland birds. Some bird species to look for include the great, snowy and cattle egrets, blue and green herons, black-crowned night herons, wood ducks, mallards, osprey, kingfishers and double-crested cormorants.
The rookery island is off-limits to paddlers and hikers, as human disturbances will endanger these fowl. The perfect time to take in the sights of this water trail is at dusk when gorgeous sunsets are in easy view and the island is at rest. Map
Taylor Bay Water Trail:
Situated off the main channel of Lake Barkley, the Taylor Bay Water Trail offers a tour of undeveloped forests and scenic waterways. It is nestled within Land Between the Lake's Woodlands Nature Watch Area, making it a fine spot to stop and view the wildlife that makes this national park a safe haven for so many species of animals. Paddlers will find much to engage them from natural wonders to historic structures such as the Empire Furnace, a relic built in 1843 whose ruins serve as a reminder of the iron industry that once fueled this region.
As the Water Trail Initiative continues, more trails will be identified and visitors will have more options for kayaking, canoeing and exploring the natural beauty and resources that Land Between the Lakes has to offer. Map
The Land Between the Lakes Water Trail system partners with the Fort Donelson National Battlefield and Civil War Water Trail, the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Water Trail and others to maintain these scenic waterways.
Lodging Options for Land Between The Lakes
Kayaking and canoeing the water trails at Land Between The Lakes offers a relaxing weekend while exploring nature's finest. Come and stay a few nights with us! You can select from several campgrounds within Land Between The Lakes or you can stay at resorts, hotels and other types of lodging located just outside LBL. You can use this link to our Lodging section to help find the perfect place to stay.