Lake Cumberland Questions This Summer's Tourism

By: Phil Pendleton
By: Phil Pendleton

The kick-off of boating season is fast approaching, but a lower water level could make Memorial Day weekend a bust at one Southern Kentucky lake.

Thousands of people flock to Lake Cumberland each summer, translating to millions of dollars for the economy. But with the lake much lower this year because of repair work on Wolf Creek Dam, the question remains: will the tourists come?

Instead of ending in a full lake, the boat ramp at Alligator One Marina ends in a puddle of muddy water. The owner has already spent a half million dollars to make improvements.

Since January, many boat ramps have been extended and tourism officials have worked to erase the perception all the water in Cumberland is gone. Alligator One Marina used to be one of the more popular places to launch a boat, but that’s now impossible.

“Is it a dire situation - really it is. No one is gonna come up here. You can’t launch. We won’t see that many people other than our slip people,” manager, Mark Blakeman said.

There are 11 cabins here but only two of them are booked for the three day weekend and Blakeman jokes that instead of boats, he’s thinking about putting cows out to graze in what used to be a cove. It’s now a grassy inlet.

“We’re just trying to make the best out of bad situation right now,” Blakeman said.

That includes telling people there’ll be less drift wood to damage boats.

“That’s true. There’s no drift out there and they can run and have a good time. No worry about tearing up your props,” Blakeman said.

Others think boaters will still come, but once they see the lake they’ll do a lot of complaining.

“I think there’s gonna be quite a few boats damaged because of running in the shallow water - not knowing what’s out there,” Blakeman said. “We just won’t have this year. We’re at the end of the creek. With no launching ramp you know. We’re going to be the lone soldier out here.”

Others say there will still be the influx of tourists here. In fact, the manager of Holiday Inn express in Somerset, Ky., said he’s sold out for next weekend. It’s just a wait and see situation right now.

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