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Kentucky Lake

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Kentucky Dam creates the largest manmade lake in the eastern United States. It backs up the Tennessee River for 184 miles and creates a lake that stretches south across the western tip of Kentucky and nearly the entire width of Tennessee. At maximum normal operating level, Kentucky Lake covers 160,300 acres.

More important than the project's size are the jobs it performs. Kentucky Dam is the spigot that TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) uses to help control floods on the lower Ohio and Mississippi rivers; it is the gateway to the Tennessee River waterway and is a major generating plant in the TVA power system.

The huge job of building Kentucky Dam took six years from the start of construction on July 1, 1938, until the reservoir began filling on August 30, 1944. At the peak of construction TVA had nearly 5,000 men at work building the dam and preparing the reservoir area. The dam, which is more than a mile long and rises 206 feet above its foundation, required 1,356,000 cubic yards of concrete and 5,582,000 cubic yards of earth and rock fill. The project cost about $118 million.

Flood Control
The Tennessee is the nation's fifth largest river within the lower 48 states in terms of flow. Kentucky Dam is just 22 miles upstream from Paducah, Kentucky where the Tennessee River flows into the Ohio. Water from the 40,200 square mile Tennessee Valley passes through the dam. This strategic location and the vast flood storage capacity of Kentucky Lake make it possible for Kentucky Dam to reduce or even temporarily shut off the flow of water from the Tennessee to help lower flood crests on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. With the other dams in the TVA system, it helps provide flood protection to 6 million acres of land in the lower Ohio and Mississippi valleys and reduces the frequency of flooding on another 4 million acres. In the many years since Kentucky Dam was completed, this flood regulation has reduced damages in those areas by millions of dollars.

Projects to improve navigation conditions on the lower Tennessee River began shortly after the Civil War, but it was Kentucky Dam and lock which finally provided a first-order channel for today's big inland towboats and barges. Kentucky Lake is the first step in a stairway of navigable TVA lakes that allow modern 9-foot draft vessels to travel the 650-mile-long main river the year round. Since impoundment of Kentucky Lake in 1945, completing this waterway and linking the Tennessee Valley with the 21 state inland waterway system, freight traffic on the Tennessee has grown from 2 million tons a year to more than 31 million tons.

The lock, at the eastern end of the dam, handles more than 2,000 loaded barges a month. This normally requires lifts of about 55 feet between the river below the dam and the lake behind it. A river tow bound upstream may carry steel from the north, grain from the midwest, or petroleum products, chemicals, or ores from the Gulf Coast. Down-bound tows carry a variety of Tennessee Valley products to other regions, including nuclear reactor vessels too large to travel overland.

Power Generation
The five turbine-generators in Kentucky Dam powerhouse have a total capacity of 175,000 kilowatts. They harness the river's flow to generate up to 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. Some of this water comes from the river's headwaters and already has helped to spin turbines at a dozen other TVA dams as it flows a thousand winding miles down the Tennessee Valley.

Kentucky Lake is a magnet for vacationers and fishermen from a wide area of mid- America, with recreation use amounting to some 17 million visits each year. Along its nearly 2400 miles of cove-studded shoreline are many boat docks and resorts, 4 state parks, the Tennessee National Wildlife refuge, 48 public access areas, 2 county parks, 5 municipal parks, 2 state wildlife management areas, 10 group camps and clubs, 92 commercial recreation areas, and 3 small wildlife areas.

Kentucky Lake History
At 8,422 feet, Kentucky is TVA's Longest dam. Construction on the dam began in 1938 and the reservoir began filling six years later. To provide a dry river bed for construction, huge cofferdams were built in three stages, starting on the east side and working to the west embankment. The first stage enclosed 26 acres for workers to construct the navigation lock. In the second stage, 40 acres were enclosed for constructing the powerhouse and 9 of the spillway bays. The third stage enclosed about 30 acres for completion of the remaining spillway bays. The impact Kentucky Dam would have on flood control and commercial navigation was foreseen by TVA designers. Electrical generation was not a top priority in the original design; but today's generators contribute about 1.3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year for TVA's power system.




Lake Barkley

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Lake Barkley is the westernmost project in a series of dams along the Cumberland River and its tributaries. Lake Barkley was impounded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1966. The dam impounds the Cumberland River near Grand Rivers, Kentucky, approximately 38 miles up stream from where the Cumberland empties into the Ohio River. One mile above the dam is a canal connecting Lake Barkley with Kentucky Lake, forming one of the greatest freshwater recreational complexes in the country. The lakes run parallel courses for more than 50 miles with Land Between the Lakes recreational area located between them. Lake Barkley is 134 miles long with a shoreline measuring 1,004 miles.

As with the formation of Kentucky Lake, communities were flooded in the 1960's to build Lake Barkley. You may hear someone refer to Eddyville and "Old Eddyville", as well as Kuttawa and "Old Kuttawa". The "Old" areas were the portions of the cities that were left above the water after the areas were flooded. You will notice these old areas are now lakefront. The present day cities were created after the lake was formed. Old foundations and streets, previously flooded, are still visible during winter pool. Highways were even relocated including US 68 and US 62 along with state routes and smaller streets. The Illinois Central Railroad was relocated and can still be seen under water from low flying planes above.

Lake Barkley provides a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities for millions of visitors each year. Natural conditions at Lake Barkley make it possible for the public to participate in activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, and boating. In addition, there is a Civil War Monument, historic relics, commercial marinas, public parks and wildlife refuges. The many species of wildlife here, including golden and bald eagles, make bird watching and nature photography exciting pastimes.

Barkley is a multiple-purpose project designed for flood control, navigation, and hydropower. Two additional purposes for which Lake Barkley is managed are recreation and fish and wildlife.

Lake Barkley belongs to its visitors. Treat the area with respect by keeping it clean and attractive. Enjoy yourself, have a safe visit, and come again.

Lake Barkley is a shallow water lake impounding 118.1 miles of the Cumberland River from River Mile 30.6 above its confluence with the Ohio River to Cheatham Dam (River Mile 148.7). It is the lowermost mainstream project for the Cumberland River System. Barkley Dam was authorized in the River and Harbor Act of 1954. The project was first identified as the Lower Cumberland Project, but was later redesignated as Barkley Lock and Dam and Lake Barkley in honor of the late Alben W. Barkley, the 35th vice president of the United States and late senator and a Paducah, Kentucky native.

Barkley Canal
One unique feature of Lake Barkley is the interconnecting canal between Lake Barkley on the Cumberland River and Kentucky Lakeon the Tennessee River. The Cumberland River entrance is approximately 2.2 river miles above Barkley Dam with the Tennessee River entrance located about 2.9 miles upstream from Kentucky Dam. The canal, with a bottom width of 400 feet and a length of 1.75 miles, provides a navigable channel for both commerce and recreation craft moving on the two waterways. Both reservoirs are operated as a unit for flood control and the production of hydroelectric power.

Barkley Lock
The navigation lock is located on the left bank of the main dam structure. The lock was opened to navigation in July of 1964 and has clear chamber dimensions of 800’ x 110’ x 57’. The gravity fill and empty system, exchanges 37,500,000 gallons of water per lockage. The lock is operated 24 hours per day with 1 operator per shift.

Barkley Power Plant
The Barkley Power Plant started operation in early 1966 when the first of its four units were placed on line. Each of Barkley’s four generators is capable of producing 32,500-kilowatt hours. As of September 1992 Barkley’s Power Plant had saved the use of over 46 million barrels of oil valued in excess of $920 million, by generating electricity instead.

Lake Levels
The lake's level is fluctuated from summer to winter for flood control purposes. Summer pool (359 ft. sea level) is normally reached by May 1. The water level begins dropping gradually on July 1, and winter pool (354 ft.) is reached by December 1. The spring rise starts April 1. The lake's water surface area varies accordingly from 57,920 acres at summer pool to 45,210 acres at winter pool.




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