Kenlake Marina is located on the Tennessee River at mile 42.1 in Kentucky Lake. This lake, together with neighboring Barkley Lake on the Cumberland, covers 341 square miles and is the fourth largest manmade lake in the nation. Boaters can cruise 130 miles in one direction and 150 miles in another without encountering a lock.
Kenlake Marina opened in 1950 after construction of the TVA dam on the Tennessee River a few miles south of the Ohio River. In 1964, the neighboring Cumberland River was also dammed and a connecting canal built surrounding three sides of the National Recreation Area, Land Between the Lakes (LBL). Unlike Barkley Lake, when Kentucky Lake was built, all the tree stumps were removed. This makes cruising and anchoring into the many coves much safer.
A construction barge barracks used by the Corps of Engineers in building Barkley Lake was moved to the marina and became the office, store and restaurant in 1982. The floating building it replaced was towed to the end of the harbor and now lies hidden in the vegetation at the end of the marina cove. I’ve often walked to it in the spring, when the water is down. There’s a postcard that shows the original store available in the shop.
Located along the route of America’s Great Loop, Kenlake Marina is an excellent stopover with safe anchorages and docking on the 890-foot transient dock. Some transients will elect to anchor in Ledbetter Creek, with its beautiful views of the hotel and three miles of open water to the east shore of LBL. The water is mostly 8 to 15 feet deep, providing easy anchoring in a clay bottom. The creek is well sheltered, except from strong northeast winds, and on weekends, personal watercraft and skiers. It’s an easy dinghy ride into the marina.
Many boat owners rent the mostly covered 219 rental slips and spend weekends on their boats coming from homes in a 200-mile radius. Lifelong friendships develop with dock parties, rafting, bonfires, Fourth of July fireworks and various other events. At the Kenlake State Park Lodge, boaters rent cabins and hotel rooms for their overflow guests. They use the pool, tennis courts and nine-hole golf course.
Breakfast at Cindy’s on the Barge should include “The Limit” omelet, with biscuits, gravy and hash browns. A summer afternoon snack can be had at the dock’s Udderly Delicious frozen custard stand. Dinner is available at the lodge, as well as at local restaurants in Aurora (2 miles away) and Murray (15 miles).
Kenlake State Park has a wide boat ramp and is the place for many national fishing contests from May to October. The marina store is well stocked with Kenlake Marina’s own brand of custom designed and manufactured lures. Fishing guides are available.
Kenlake State Park is right at the west end of the Eggners Ferry Bridge, which gained media fame early this year when a large ship carrying rocket engines made in Huntsville, Ala., got out of the channel and rammed one of six spans. Roughly a third of the span was draped over the bow of the ship, with the rest going to the bottom. The court cases will probably go on for years. The span is being replaced, and the bridge is expected to reopen by Memorial Day.
The LBL has many other interesting places to see, including a visitor’s center, planetarium, elk and bison prairie, and the fully-functioning 1850’s home and farm called Homeplace. The marina can arrange transportation to these places for transient boaters. Another benefit of what is already a first-rate home away from home.
888 Kenlake Marina Lane
Hardin, KY 42048
Hours: Open all year. March 15 to November 11, 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. November 12 to March 14, 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover.
Fuel: 90-octane, no ethanol gas; 87-octane gas; and diesel.
Transient Dockage: 890 feet with power, water, cable, Wi-Fi.
Water Depth: 15 feet at the transient docks, summer pool; 10 feet winter pool.
Amenities: Marina store with fishing tackle, clothing and supplies. Restaurants including Cindy’s on the Barge and Kenlake Resort Park Lodge
Services: Boat rentals, free boat ramp, bait, fishing licenses, pump-out, showers and coin-operated laundry.
Getting There by Water: Tennessee River Mile 42.1
Getting There by Land: Interstate 24 to Exit 52 or 65, then US-68 to SR-94.