Your Guide to Jamestown, Kentucky: A Mecca for Paddling, Fishing & More
In 1952, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers constructed a dam on Wolf Creek near Jamestown, Kentucky, creating massive Lake Cumberland, the second largest lake in the Cumberland River System. Covering more than 65,000 acres, Lake Cumberland is a recreational hot spot in Kentucky, offering great opportunities for kayaking and canoeing, fishing, and house-boating. At Lake Cumberland State Resort Park, visitors can also swim, hike, ride horses, or get in a game of disc golf, volleyball, or tennis.
With so much to do, you could spend days or weeks exploring the Lake Cumberland area, and Jamestown serves as the perfect home base where you can refuel after a day outdoors. Together, Jamestown and adjacent Russell Springs have a combined population of about 5,000 people, so you’ll enjoy a friendly hometown vibe during your stay, plus you’ll find plenty of amenities, including tasty food and comfortable accommodations. Then, when it’s time to load up your gear and head outdoors, you’ll be just a few minutes away from all the action.
From Jamestown, you won’t have to travel far to land some monster fish. Drive a little more than 10 minutes and you’ll reach Lake Cumberland, where anglers have set state records for sauger, walleye, and striped bass. Typically, the best times to fish are spring and fall. During the summer, the warm water temperatures send many of the target species to the depths, and trolling deep provides fast action for smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted (Kentucky) bass. Crappie, walleye, and muskellunge are also popular game fish.
Below Wolf Creek Dam, an iconic tail water fishery flows for 16 miles to Winfrey’s Ferry. This section also produces record-sized fish, notably trout trophies. The state record brown, rainbow, brook, and lake trout were all caught here. When you’re prepping to fish this area, keep in mind that the tail water provides steady flows for small boats, canoes, kayaks, and jon boats. As for tackle, spinners, flies, and bait are all proven winners. Anglers will do best by targeting deep holes, and you’ll find especially popular pools along Boyd’s Bar, above Helm’s Landing, and at Rainbow Run below Rockhouse.
The abundance of deep, cool water flowing from behind Wolf Creek Dam led to the construction of the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in 1975. Each year, the hatchery produces approximately 275,000 pounds of trout, and more than 1 million fish are released to fisheries across Kentucky. Most of these fish are catchable, measuring about 9 inches. Anglers can even fish at the hatchery these days. On-site there’s a stream that’s regularly stocked with fish, and one section is catch-and-release only, while another stretch allows you to harvest fish. The hatchery also includes a family friendly environmental education center that hosts programs for adults and kids throughout the year.
For a change of scenery from Lake Cumberland, head north 30 miles to Green River Lake, where the fishing is similar to Lake Cumberland and anglers go for various species of bass, plus Muskie, bluegill, and catfish. Plus, the lake plays host to a Crappie Festival each April. To reel in smallmouth bass, try the tail water fishery below the Green River Dam. This stretch is one of Kentucky’s Blue Water Trails, which are waterways noted for their excellent fishing, canoeing, kayaking, or rafting.
Known for its calm waters, Lake Cumberland provides the perfect opportunity to kayak, whether you’re seeking some exercise in beautiful surroundings, or simply prefer to cruise at a leisurely pace and search for great blue herons and dozens of other bird species. If you don’t own boats, don’t worry. Kayak rentals are available at Lake Cumberland State Dock, Wolf Creek Marina, and Jamestown Resort & Marina. If the winds are calm, consider trying stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), which is becoming more popular on Lake Cumberland. At the State Dock you can rent SUP boards and gear which allow you to ditch the paddle and cruise along using foot pedals and a steering wheel.
For more paddling adventures, look beyond Lake Cumberland and consider floating below Wolf Creek Dam. Kayaks and canoes are recommended during low flows, as the current can be dangerous when the dam releases are at their peak. Other kayak and canoe options in the region include Green River and Russell Creek between Columbia and Campbellsville.
For land lovers, Lake Cumberland State Resort Park has ample trails, including the Baugh Branch Trail, which takes you on an easy 1.6-mile stroll to a lake overlook. For a longer walk, consider the 4-mile Lake Bluff Trail, which includes some steep slopes, rougher grades, and multiple road crossings. As you walk among the mixed hardwoods and pines, listen for the knock of woodpeckers, keep an eye out for white-tailed deer, and in open areas scan the sky to glimpse red-tailed hawks.
Using Jamestown as Your Base Camp
Where to Eat
After a long day on the trail or the water, satisfy your appetite with a visit to the Jamestown Cafe. At this down-home eatery you’ll get solid servings of all the traditional favorites including burgers and fish. Since you’ve burned some calories, go ahead and treat yourself to a slice of coconut cream or chocolate pie. For more local favorites, head to North Main and try Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken or the popular Burgers & Fries.
While Jamestown offers a variety of food options, you can also find good meals at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park. You would be hard pressed to find better dining views than those at Rowena Landing Restaurant, which is open all year, but is especially noted for its holiday buffets on New Year’s Eve, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Thanksgiving. The restaurant even hosts an annual Buffalo Dinner each January, serving buffalo roast, stew, chili, and meatloaf. Beachy themed L.C. Tiki Bar and Restaurant and the Cumberland Tap also serve up food and drinks from the shores of Lake Cumberland.
Where to Get a Good Night's Sleep
In the Jamestown region, you’ll find quality hotels, bed and breakfast options and cabin rentals, ranging from rustic to luxurious. Some places even cater to anglers and paddlers and promote easy access to Lake Cumberland and the Cumberland River.
Timber Pointe Resort is a homey getaway just 2.5 miles from the Jamestown Square and about a mile from the Jamestown Marina and the Lily Creek Boat Ramp. A community of regulars and permanent residents occupy much of the space at Timber Pointe, but overnight accommodations are available in the lodge and in a campground that includes 10 spaces with full hookups.
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park is home to the 63-room Lure Lodge as well as cabin rentals. The resort also has a campground with 123 spaces, including 91 drive-in sites with electricity and 31 tent-only sites. The Kendall Campground at Wolf Creek Dam puts you near all the outdoor action and has some of the prettiest camping pads around.
From the clear waters of Lake Cumberland to the friendly cafes in Jamestown, this pocket of south-central Kentucky serves as an entertaining and relaxing escape. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure, or you simply want to rest amid beautiful surroundings, there’s something here to put a smile on your face. When you stay in Jamestown, you’ll find a friendly community and a full suite of services within minutes of lakes, trails and a wide variety of activities, allowing you to spend less time in the car and more time in the great outdoors.
Written by RootsRated Media for Kentucky Tourism.