Kentucky Tourism

Buckhorn Lake History

Established January 18, 1961

On June 28, 1938, under what has come to be known as the “Flood Control Acts of 1938,” Congress authorized the construction of a dam and reservoir about 43 miles above the mouth of the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River and about a half mile upstream from Buckhorn, Ky. The dam is 162 feet high, 1,020 feet long, and 842 wide at the maximum base. The reservoir located in both Leslie and Perry Counties covers 550 acres, and the seasonal pool is 1,230 acres.

The Kentucky State Parks Board approved the acceptance of Buckhorn Lake into the commonwealth’s parks system on January 18, 1961. The area has some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery in Kentucky. However, the seclusion of the park caused a great deal of difficulty in obtaining road access during the early 1960s. The Kentucky Department of Highways constructed a road over the mountain to the park, but the stabilization of the road took two years before commercial traffic could utilize it. The park did not officially open until 1965.

Located in the northern portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest in the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau, Buckhorn Lake State Park has 856 acres of lush Kentucky mountain land. The name for the park and nearby town came from the discovery of a buck’s horn at a nearby saltlick. Another story recounts how Jerry Smith, the first white settler in the area killed a four snag buck, thus giving the name to the community. The surrounding forest is filled with wildlife and Buckhorn Lake has excellent fishing. Bluegill, large and smallmouth bass, catfish, crappie, and muskie abound in the lake’s waters.

By August 1964 Buckhorn Lake had a 24-room lodge, a beach, bathhouse, picnic facilities, and camping sites. On May 22, 1967 the Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration approved a project to further develop the park. New lodge rooms, resort pool, boat slips and miniature golf course were added to the park.