Tourism: Lake Cumberland is back

By wmadministrator

One of the main drivers of the impact is Lake Kentucky, 160,000 acres in size, the state’s largest lake and the largest man-made body of water in the eastern United States. Western Waterlands Region’s $ 871 million economic development for tourism and recreation in 2015.

Kentucky has more navigable miles of water than any state in the Union other than Alaska, though starting with just three small natural lakes. Its many massive man-made bodies of water, however, attract millions of visitors each year who enjoy boating, fishing, paddling, swimming, and other activities.

These lakes are the primary contributors to the total estimated economic impact of $ 13.7 billion in 2015 attributed to the collective sectors of the Kentucky Cabinet of Tourism, Arts and Heritage.

The main lakes of Kentucky (information on lake size, date of creation, location)

Kentucky tourism generated more than $ 1.43 billion in taxes, with $ 184.9 million going directly to local communities.

“I really love all of our lakes in the state because each one has its own unique personality and beauty,” said Kristen R. Branscum, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Travel & Tourism. “One of my favorite lake memories as a child was mooring a barge every summer at one of the many islands in Lake Cumberland. It was like having our own private island where we could swim during the day and have a campfire at night. There is nothing more peaceful in this world than to gaze at a completely still lake at night with no other light than the moon and the stars.

The passion reflected in this statement carried Branscum into his current job, helping to stimulate an industry where the state is experiencing exciting growth. While there are no figures on the economic impact of the lakes alone, the growth of the South Shore tourism region which includes the Cumberland Lake area is easy to explain. A six-year, $ 600 million repair project to stop seepage at the Wolf Creek Dam was completed in 2013 and water levels held at 680 feet during construction have returned to above 710 feet.

“In 2007, when the (US military) corps (engineers) lowered the water level for the dam repair, we saw a drop in tourism of about 10% the following year.” , said Branscum. “In 2012, there was more than a slight uptick, and in 2013 we saw the economic impact of the Southern Kentucky region at $ 297,608,982. In 2014, the region grew again to $ 304,759,386 million, and our recently released figures for 2015 show an increase of almost 3% to $ 313,428,414. “

All nine tourist regions saw revenue gains in 2015, but the Commonwealth Caves, Lakes and Corvettes Tourist Region in 2015 saw the largest increase with 6.9%. This region – comprising Nolin River Lake, Dale Hollow Lake, Lake Malone State Park and Barren River Lake – recorded an economic impact of $ 664.2 million.

However, it was the Western Waterlands area just to the west that made the biggest financial wave in Kentucky tourism, racking up an economic impact of $ 871.8 million. Western Waterlands includes arguably the state’s most popular lakes, Lake Kentucky and Lake Barkley, which are connected by a canal, making it together the largest body of man-made water east of the Mississippi River. . The 170,000 acres between the two lakes make up the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area.

“We’re a great outdoor adventure area,” said Randy Newcomb, executive director of the Kentucky Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There is the huge lake, of course. It’s great for fishing and boating, and it’s a fun place for families to come and visit. Even when I have been to the lake for an event, it just puts you in a better mood and relaxed. “

Kentucky Lake’s economic impact for Marshall County alone in 2015 was estimated to be nearly $ 133 million.

“The biggest draw is Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley and Land Between the Lakes,” Newcomb said. “That’s the big draw, and of course downtown Paducah. All of this attracts people to our region.

Visitors are still flocking, but Newcomb said he has seen visit times decrease.

“We have seen a lot of people come to our area, but the change is that they don’t stay that long,” he said. “Ten years ago, people would stay a whole week. The trend now is that they come for three or four days – more of a getaway. But we receive more people. We get them for less time, but we get more.

Kayaking and paddle boarding on the lake are on the increase, he said, and fishing also continues to pick up each year. The largest group, he said, are simply outdoor adventurers who want to be on the water and use the Land Between the Lakes recreation area.

“We’re affordable vacations, you don’t have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to take your family on vacation. This is far from the case if you want to go to Disney.

Likewise, Lake Cumberland has a “weekend warrior” atmosphere, said Carolyn Mounce, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The ‘weekend warriors’ are probably a slightly larger percentage of our summer visitors,” she said. “Overall, we are seeing an increase in the number of visitors coming for other reasons. Participation in sporting events such as fishing tournaments, Little League high school baseball and basketball tournaments, and golf is growing.

The Master Musicians Festival, Somernites Cruise and other festivals also draw huge crowds. Flashback Theater and Lake Cumberland Performing Arts offer drama and other performing arts at the Center for Rural Development and the Carnegie Community Arts Center throughout the year, she said, while enthusiasts history like Mill Springs Battlefield, Zollicoffer Park, Mill Springs Mill Park and the Brown -Maisons Lanier and West-Metcalfe.

“Although we are primarily known for Lake Cumberland, visitors are discovering how much more our region has to offer,” said Mounce.

The figures for the economic impact of tourism in 2015 for the five counties bordering Lake Cumberland – Pulaski, Russell, Wayne, McCreary and Clinton – were $ 224.8 million. Pulaski County had more than half at $ 125.4.

“These numbers show that the Cumberland Lake area grew by about 3% last year,” Mounce said. “In fact, our region has grown every year since 2013.”

The lake resumed normal activities in 2014.

“Many visitors who have chosen to visit other lakes have returned to Cumberland Lake, and we are happy to see them again,” Mounce said. “Normal rises (in water level) have resulted in increased tourism to the Cumberland Lake area. Our visitors come back in droves and love every minute. Although there has been some decrease in lake-oriented sites, we are fortunate in our region to have “out of the water” options.

Cumberland is unique for its terrain, being one of the deepest lakes with steep banks and clear, clean water, she said. Behind the 256-foot-high dam sits over 1,250 miles of shoreline, creating hundreds of coves for barges to moor in isolation.

Stand-up paddleboarding, also known as SUP, is growing in popularity, Mounce said, and the barge business remains a major industry on Cumberland Lake.

“Camping has seen a real increase over the past few years, as has hiking, kayaking and other outdoor sports and adventure activities,” she said. “Anyone can be happy at the lake, and that’s something you can’t find anywhere,” she noted. “Kentucky is unique in that you can access a major lake or river in just about any part of the state. We are fortunate to have an abundance of streams that we can enjoy.

The state could better market its lakes, agreed Branscum and Mounce

“The state really needs to increase marketing dollars for the Department of Travel and Kentucky State Parks,” Mounce said. “The city of Gatlinburg has a larger marketing budget than the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Earlier this year, Governor Matt Bevin announced an injection of $ 18 million into Kentucky state parks. At the end of June, the state was taking steps to improve its marketing image library with new photographic, video and drone images of the lake’s activities.

The Explore Kentucky Initiative is a non-profit organization that, among other roles, helps people plan adventure trips around the state and educates them on strategies for getting involved and seeing Kentucky in a new light. .

Gerry James, director of the initiative, is known to lead groups to distant destinations and inspire them to explore. One of his personal favorites is a lesser known Fish Trap Lake in County Pike. Plus, although he’s a little popular now, James has said he’d like to see Cave Run Lake in eastern Kentucky “get more love”. It is home to its own sailing association, he said, and the scenic remoteness of the lake is hard to find elsewhere.

The area at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers includes the 458-acre Ax Lake Swamp State Nature Preserve, which was recognized as a priority wetland in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The Ballard Bottoms Tourism Board works to promote the area’s kayaking, canoeing, hunting and fishing opportunities in the county’s currently unused resource.

Abby Laub is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected].

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