Lake Cumberland


By Mark Corke

Lake Cumberland is known for houseboats but, there's still plenty of places to get away from it all. Best for chartering houseboats, watersports and fishing.

Boating on Cumberland lake in Kentucky

According to Buzz Moore, there's simply nothing better than houseboating on Kentucky's Lake Cumberland. "We moved to Somerset to be near the grandkids when we retired, then soon after bought a runabout," says Moore. "Now we probably spend more time on the lake than we do at home. We love it here."

Houseboating on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky

Often considered the houseboating capital of the world, Lake Cumberland by many estimates is home to more than 1,500 houseboats. Moore initially thought that with that many houseboats, not to mention the influx of small boats in the summer, the lake would get congested. But, no, he says, that's not the case. "The lake is 100 miles long, and with so many small coves and bays, it's easy to get away from others. We'll tuck into a small inlet at the end of the day and sit in the boat watching the sun go down. It's quite magical."

Lake Cumberland Know How

When To Go

The average summer high temp is 79 F, dipping down to the high 30s F in winter. Summer is peak season, of course, but September and October can be a good time to visit; the weather is still mild, but the lake is less crowded. Leaf peepers will want to be on the lake in October when the shoreline bursts with fall colors.

Lake Cumberland Kentucky map

Where To Stay

If you rent one of the large houseboats, you'll have all the comforts of home. Prices vary depending on the size and time you wish to go, but you should expect to pay around $5,000 per week for a boat suitable for three to four couples.

If you're trailing a boat that has sleeping accommodation, perhaps rent a transient slip for a night or two at one of the many marinas. Or anchor out. Many boaters simply pull up to the beach — much of the lake has a gently sloping shoreline — and run a line to a tree or dig an anchor into the gravel.

There's also camping ashore at the many state parks and local campgrounds that dot the lake shore, ideal for those with smaller craft.

Where To Launch

There are 48 listed launching sites that are either privately operated, often at marinas and boatyards, operated by the Corps of Engineers, or found at such state-operated facilities as state parks. Some of these ramps may be closed if water levels in the lake are especially low.


Need a fishing license? Buy it online before you arrive.

Lake Cumberland is also a popular destination for small-boat anglers. The lake is well stocked with fish and boasts some state records. Striped bass and walleye are regularly taken from the lake. (You'll need a license, available online.) Long and skinny, the lake runs in a generally northeast-to-southwest orientation and was formed by damming of the Cumberland River. You may find yourself adjusting your watch as you travel from one end of the lake to the other: The top half is on Eastern Time, the lower on Central. There are plenty of places to launch a trailerable boat. Many ramps are located in state parks or on municipal lands and are free to use. Those located at private marinas may require a launching fee. You'll need to check; a weekly pass is often cheaper than paying by the day. 

— Published: Spring 2016


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