Martins Fork Lake and its Wildlife Management Area is a recreational area in Harlan County, Kentucky that provides opportunities for water recreation, hiking, picnicking, and hunting. Aside from its abundance of year-round recreational activities, the Martins Fork watershed area acts as a significant natural resource for the region and for Kentucky as a whole; a total of 12 endangered or threatened species found can be found within the area. Visitors can admire the special habitats and natural communities that the area holds while hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and more.
Managed by the US Corps of Army Engineers, Martins Fork Lake provides a setting for fishing, swimming, and boating within the 334-acre reservoir.
Anglers will find themselves pleased with fishing opportunities within the lake. Martins Forks holds the distinction of being the only lake in Kentucky with a population of redeye bass. Along with this species, the lake holds stock of three other species of bass, crappie, walleye, bluegill, and catfish.
Fishing can be done from bank access, a fishing pier, and by boat around the lake.
Visitors looking to spend their day on the lake can do so by boat. Due to the small size of the lake, motor boats with 10 hp motors or less are permitted. Paddlers can also take advantage of the waters by canoeing and kayaking on the lake.
Looking to cool off? Swimming is a popular activity to visitors of the lake during summer months. Martins Fork provides a designated beach and swimming area at the Smith Recreation Area. Swimmers can also choose to swim elsewhere in the lake, provided they avoid the boat launch and fishing pier areas.
After a day on the lake, visitors may be interested in taking a hike on the 5-mile Cumberland Shadow Trail. The trail follows ridgelines along the lake, providing beautiful views of Martins Fork reservoir and the surrounding area.
The trail is open year-round and offers particularly spectacular views of fall foliage during autumn months. Hikers looking to extend their trip can camp at two primitive sites along the trail.
The Martins Fork Lake Wildlife Management Area encompasses nearly 1,100 acres surrounding the lake and provides public hunting for whitetail deer, turkey, squirrel, and grouse. Food plots are dispersed for wildlife throughout the woodlands, providing excellent hunting during the game’s respective seasons.
Hunters can access the WMA through trails such as the Cumberland Shadow Trail. It should be noted that there are no roads within the area, making for a secluded and rustic hunting experience only accessible by foot.