Established May 19, 1949
On May 19, 1949, The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) officially turned over Kentucky Dam Village to the Kentucky State Parks System. The Marshall County, Kentucky site acquired by the commonwealth had once been one of the most isolated and poverty stricken in the state. The Tennessee River frequently flooded and some places could not be safely navigated for commercial traffic. Prior to 1933, the U.S. Corps of Engineers had made field studies regarding the feasibility of building a dam on the Tennessee River, in the vicinity of Eggner’s Ferry where Kenlake Resort Park is now located. After the creation of the TVA, a new field investigation took place that recommended a dam be built near the town of Gilbertville, Kentucky. On May 28, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the act to authorize funding for the construction of a new dam on the Tennessee River.
Land acquisition for the dam and subsequent lake cost nearly $17 million. Two Kentucky towns vanished when their sites had to be cleared for the dam’s construction. When actual construction on the project began on July 1, 1938, accommodations for workmen had to be built. The community that had housed the workmen was abandoned with the project’s completion in 1945. The new dam had originally been called the Gilbertsville Dam, but the TVA renamed it Kentucky Dam.
At one and a half miles long and 206 feet high, Kentucky Dam is the largest dam built by the TVA. Kentucky Lake has 160,000 acres with a canal that connects it to Lake Barkley. It is the largest man-made lake in the eastern United States. Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley creates one of the largest waterways in the world. The lake has a beach and a full service marina with both covered and uncovered slips. Anglers can find bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, and rockfish.
In 1949 Kentucky Dam State Resort Park consisted of 1,119-acres in addition to several areas designated for state use, an auditorium, personnel building, a central heating plant, a community building, complete water, sewage, and electrical systems, 39 houses, and a hospital. The commonwealth paid $76,000 for this property valued in 1949 at $3,000,000.
Between 1949 and 1955, the state spent over a million and a half dollars updating and improving Kentucky Dam Village. Although the park began with a major group of buildings, the need for recreational facilities to make the park a major resort demanded a large infusion of money. A new 18-hole golf course was installed. This course is considered to be among the top golf courses in the nation. There is also a convention center that seats 900 and a 4,000 foot lighted runway for light air traffic. Among the special events which are held at the Park are Eagles Weekend in January, Elk and Bison Day in February, Easter and Mother’s Day, and other events
The region around Kentucky Dam Village at one time belonged to the Chickasaw Indians. On October 19, 1818, this portion of western Kentucky was acquired by the United States as part of the Jackson Purchase. This famous land transaction added 8,000 square miles to the states of Kentucky and Tennessee. The Chickasaw received $300,000 over a fifteen years time period for their lands. Former Kentucky Governor Isaac Shelby and General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee negotiated the purchase with the leaders of the Chickasaw nation.