In addition to Kentucky having a wide array of activities related to woods and water, the Commonwealth operates excellent state-run facilities in every region that are well-suited to the needs of hunters, anglers and boaters for getting away for extended periods of time.
In fact, making state parks a base of operation for hunting and fishing trips often put hunters in close proximity to excellent hunting and fishing, all with the amenities of food, lodging and more right at hand.
Throughout Kentucky, there are 17 state resort parks, many associated with a major reservoir, which provide everything that sportsmen and women need to a comfortable trip. Some resorts offer more than others, but all have the basics of lodging and access.
JENNY WILEY STATE RESORT PARK
Situated on Dewey Lake in Floyd County outside the city of Prestonsburg, Jenny Wiley State Resort Park is an excellent choice for outdoorsmen and women to visit for an extended hunting or fishing trip, or just a vacation. The inviting May Lodge lies within easy driving distance of two other major lakes in the region, in addition to Dewey’s 1,100 scenic acres.
Those who prefer to be away from the crowd can choose a one- or two-bedroom cottage, or even a campsite. Camping is sometimes much more economical, and adds a different social aspect, all while having access to lodge activities and marina boat rentals.
However, all park lodges and campgrounds are managed on a “seasonal” system, so it’s imperative to make reservations in advance to be sure campgrounds are open for use from mid-November through February.
Fall is a particularly enjoyable time to be lost among towering pine hillsides to witness the hardwood color changes in the eastern region of Kentucky. It just adds some soothing atmosphere when casting into Dewey for muskies or largemouths. Both populations are in good shape, along with crappie and catfish, according to Eastern District Fishery Biologist Kevin Frye.
“I think anglers tend to forget about lakes like Dewey, and some may be unaware that it holds some good muskie,” said Frye. “It’s a smaller lake, sort of hidden away from the larger population centers of the state, but a great destination when an escape back to nature is in order.”
The biologist also notes that picking up crappie in early winter and spring, when lake levels are at winter pool, is an opportunity anglers don’t want to overlook. The lake has both white and black crappie, which can be caught off main channel ledges and creek drop-offs in colder weather.
Options for food, always a consideration on a hunting/fishing excursion, are available at the Music Highway Grill restaurant. Choices are reasonably priced, and the menu varies with some traditional Kentucky favorites, such as fried catfish and more. At times a dinner buffet may be offered, and even beer, wine and spirits are now served.
There is a kid menu, as well as game rooms, a seasonal pool, activities offered by the park naturalist and 10 miles of hiking trails. There is also a playground and a 9-hole executive golf course on the grounds.
Another interesting aspect of time at May Lodge is the opportunity to enjoy the theatre. Since the mid-’60s, theater productions have been offered at the Jenny Wiley Theatre, with various shows performed throughout the year.
Also in the vicinity, Paintsville Lake, Yatesville and Fishtrap are within easy reach of Jenny Wiley. These reservoirs have a good deal of Corps of Engineers land around them, with good small game, turkey and deer bow hunting opportunities depending on the time of visit, with maps available at fw.ky.gov.
75 Theatre Ct, – Prestonsburg, KY 41653 – 800-325-0142; 606-889-1792Lodge
Lodging: 49 Lodge rooms, $60 to $100 per night; 18 Cabins, one or two bedroom cottages, $70 to $200 per night
Campground: 121 sites, up to $25 per night
Onsite Amenities: 9-hole golf, marina & bait shop, pool, mountain bike trails, archery & playground, nature center
Nearby Amenities: Planetarium Big Sandy Comm. Tech College, Billy Ray’s, Pig-in-a-Poke, Elazul’s Mexican, all in Prestonsburg.
Lure Lodge on Lake Cumberland has 63 rooms, making it one of the larger state-run lodges in Kentucky. The resort also has 123 camping sites. Both the lodge and camping area sits on land adjacent to the 50,000-plus acre lake, which is a top choice of anglers across the country. There are even numerous marinas up and down the lake for resupplying during the day.
Groups can book Pumpkin Lodge, with 13 rooms and common areas within. Often this venue is selected for family reunion events. It’s a short drive or a nice walk back to the lodge, the pool or the gift shop. Smaller groups — three or four people — might want to consider reserving a one- or two-bedroom cottage for relaxing after a day of adventure in the woods or on the water.
The resort also has a full service marina with fuel, food, bait, tackle and boat rentals, as well as fishing tips and guide contacts. Striped bass are making a strong comeback in numbers and size in the lake, and attract a lot of angler attention. Guides are well worth their fee on this lake for those wanting to tangle with a powerful species, which are an open water fish that move frequently and sometimes take a professional to locate.
Those who decide to not hit the outdoors can relax in an indoor pool, explore the game room, watch TV in the lobby or walk the well-kept grounds surrounding the lodge. Folks can also play tennis, ride horses or watch wildlife, with deer, raccoons, many species of bird and more calling the park home.
Additionally, Lake Cumberland Wildlife Management Area spans portions of five counties around the lake offering 42,000 acres of woodlands to hunt, with almost all seasons open under statewide regulations. Below Wolf Creek Dam is a federal fish hatchery that produces all the trout stocked in Kentucky waters, and further provides a superb bank fishing stream for trout below the facility adjacent to the tailwaters of Lake Cumberland. Fly-fishermen will particularly enjoy Hatchery Creek, as there is room to work holes and riffles without having to rub elbows.
Just south of the park lies the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, which covers about 30,000 acres in McCreary County and provides some of the most scenic river and gorge combination landscape in the state. Canoeing and fishing is very popular on the Big South Fork. A regional office is located in Stearns, off Hwy. 92, where information on the area, including fishing info can be found.
More than enough adventure exists in and around this portion of the state, and Lake Cumberland’s Lure Lodge is an ideal place to operate from for the outdoors enthusiast.
5465 State Park Road, Jamestown, KY 42629 – 800-325-1709; 270-343-3111
Lodging: 63 main lodge rooms, 13 small lodge rooms, $90 to $160; 29 cabins, one to two bedroom, $120 to $280
Campground: 129 sites, up to $22 for weekends
Onsite Amenities: Full marina & ramp, trails, indoor pool, disc and mini golf, tennis
Nearby Amenities: Pepe’s Mexican Grill, Giovanni’s Pizza, Jamestown Café, Federal Fish Hatchery/Museum at Wolf Creek Dam
KENLAKE STATE RESORT PARK
Kentucky Lake contains multiple parks along its shores, but Kenlake State Resort Park is one of the best. In addition to having some premier fishing, Kenlake puts folks in an excellent position to hunt the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, which is about 10 minutes from the 48-room lodge.
Kenlake’s lodge contains well-kept rustic, lodge-style rooms, and on the outskirts of the property are more secluded cottages, some designed for those who might need three bedrooms. Campsites are also available
Kenlake Marina is a superb facility containing both fishing supplies and contact information on guides for pursuing stripers and hybrids below Kentucky Dam, and Lake Barkley is right next door, providing even more opportunities to put fish in the boat.
During December and January, visitors can participate in the Eagle Watch weekends offered by Kenlake and other parks, where folks can take a yacht tour to see and learn about these amazing birds.
Waterfowl hunters during the season can be out on the water in no time from Kenlake Lodge, spend a few hours after ducks and be back in Aurora Landing restaurant in plenty of time for lunch or dinner. Often during the supper meal, the head chef will come to the dining room and chat with customers, which is a special highlight most of these state lodges have now encouraged.
Not many get to have meals or an after dinner drink overlooking a lake at sunset, but Kenlake Lodge provides exactly that. Other features include an outdoor summer pool, 9-hole golf course, easy hiking trails and beautifully manicured flower gardens in season. Everyone in the family can find something for entertainment, and get a taste of what Kentucky’s outdoors offer in the state’s western big-water region.
Any of these lodges and parks offer hunters, anglers, boaters and families an excellent “home base” while exploring the surrounding area lands, waters and wildlife-related recreation. There are some superb area restaurants close to these lodges, and it’s always smart to ask the front desk people where the best spots are located.
542 Kenlake Road, Hardin, KY – 800-325-0143; 270-474-2211
Lodging: 48 lodge rooms, $65 – $130; 34 cottages, one to three bedroom, $90 – $230
Campground: 90 sites; $25 a night for hook-ups
Onsite Amenities: Full service marina, hiking trails, archery center, golf course, playground, pool
Nearby amenities: Kentucky/Barkley Lakes, LBL Recreation Area Elk and Bison Prairie, Patti’s Settlement, Willow Pond, Kaylee’s Farmhouse and Marquita’s restaurants
NOTE: Rates vary based on time of the year, and whether a weekday or weekend. Pricing can change at any time. Reservations can be made online at parks.ky.gov, or by phone.