Martins Fork Lake

Quick Facts

Martins Fork Lake


(606) 573-7655

Map Directions

Things To Do


Fed by the clear waters of Martins Fork Creek, this small but attractive 340-acre lake (10 m.p.h. limit) offers excellent recreational opportunities in the scenic mountainous terrain of Harlan County. The lake provides a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities for thousands of visitors each year. Because of the temperate climate and long recreation season, visitors have numerous activities from which to choose, including: fishing, hunting, picnicking, camping, sunbathing, hiking, boating, and others. The surface water temperature is 59 degrees.

The lake water is dingy with low visibility. The lake elevation is 1305.35 feet above mean sea level and slowly dropping. Scattered catches of bass and bluegill are being reported. Trout are scheduled to be released in the tailwater on November 16th 2010, by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. Fishing is reported to be good with the cooling water temperatures and fall weather patterns. At normal levels it has a surface area of 340 acres. It is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Martins Fork Dam, also known as Martins Fork Lake is a gravity dam. The core is homogeneous, concrete. The foundation is rock. Its length is 504 feet. Maximum discharge is 57000 cubic feet per second. Its capacity is 21100 acre feet. Normal storage is 3700 acre feet. It drains an area of 56 square miles. Martins Fork Lake provides lakeside recreation for Harlan County and the surrounding area.

Map of Martins Fork Lake

Latitude, Longitude: 36.740906, -83.265319



  • Boating

    Because of the Martins Fork's small size, boats are restricted to motors with 10 hp or less. They do offer waivers for boats with greater than 10 hp motors. Boaters who are interested in obtaining a Martins Fork boat waiver must have a boat safety inspection by one of the lake staff before obtaining their waiver. Proper boat registration, drivers license, operating navigation lights, PFD's, and fire extinguisher are required for a waiver. Boaters interested in obtaining a waiver are encouraged to contact the Resource Manager's Office at (606) 573-7655.

  • Bicycling

    Please call the main phone number for more information.

  • Camping

    Please call the main phone number for more information.

  • Fishing

    Fishing is also very popular at Martins Fork. Fishing opportunities are numerous at the lake. Bass, crappie, walleye, bluegill, and catfish are commonly caught in the lake. Below the dam is also an excellent area to fish for rainbow trout (stocked March to November), walleye, and bluegill. Limits at Martins Fork fall under the statewide size and creel limits posted by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Martins Fork Lake offers barrier free fishing areas at the Smith Recreation Area and below the dam on the tailwaters.

  • Hiking

    Hiking or walking along the Cumberland Shadow Trail is an enjoyable way to enjoy the outdoors in a natural setting. The Cumberland Shadow Trail is a 5 mile long multi-purpose trail along the backside of the lake. The trailheads are located above the second bridge over the lake and below the dam. The trail is available for use year-round and features excellent views of the lake. The trail winds its way along the ridges and through the valleys of Martins Fork. There are two primitive campsites along the trail for backpackers. During the fall, hunters also use the area along the trail, so please use caution.

  • Hunting

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers administers 1,074 acres of land as part of the Martins Fork Lake Project. Much of this land is open to public hunting. White-tailed deer, turkey, squirrel, and grouse are present at Martins Fork WMA. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) administers the wildlife management program and cooperates with the Corps to perform management practices to benefit wildlife. KDFWR and Corps personnel maintain wildlife food plots for the benefit of the wildlife. The food plots are interspersed among undeveloped woodlands and make for excellent hunting.

  • Picnicking

    Please call the main phone number for more information.

  • Water Sports

    Swimming at Martins Fork is one of the more popular water-based activities. Swimming is prohibited at the launching ramp and the fishing pier. It is allowed elsewhere, but for safety's sake please swim only at the Smith Recreation Area Beach. This area is much safer as it is off-limits to boaters of all kinds. It is surrounded by "restricted area" buoys and a floating orange pipeline. The Smith Recreation Area is free to the public.



16 mi SE of Harlan on KY 987.

Phone Numbers


(606) 573-7655