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About Barren River Lake

Barren River Lake was authorized under the Flood Control Act of 1938. The Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed, built, and operates the project to reduce flood damages downstream from the dam. The dam is about 10 miles east of Scottsville, Ky., on the Barren River, a tributary of the Green River. The drainage area above the dam is about 940 square miles.

During the fall and winter months, the lake is kept at a relatively low level referred to as winter pool. Should heavy rains occur, surface water runoff is stored in the lake until the swollen streams and rivers below the dam have receded and can handle the release of the stored water without damage to lives or property.

Dam Information:

Dam: Type Rolled earth fill with random rock
Top Elevation: 618 feet
Height above streambed: 146 feet
Length: 3,970 feet
Maximum width at base: 1,272 feet
Drainage area above dam: 940 square miles

Pool Elevation Area Length
  (Feet mean sea level) (Acres) (Miles)
Winter 525 4,340 21
Summer 552 10,000 33
Total Storage 590 20,150 46

Area History

A native grass prarie restoration project, near the dam, is representative of what "The Barrens" looked like to early pioneers.

Anglers, boaters and campers are only the most recent people to enjoy the beauty and natural resources of the Barren River Region. As early as 12,000 B.C., Native Americans fished, boated, and lived along the river's floodplain and terraces, and on the bluffs overlooking it. These people lived in small groups that moved often. Around 1,000 B.C. they moved more into farming and built more permanent settlements. By A.D. 900 farming was a way of life and archeologists refer to these farmers as the Mississippians.

Native Americans periodically burned off parts of this region, to provide grasslands that were attractive to grazing buffalo. Thus, this area without trees, appeared to be "barren." This area then came to be known as "The Barrens" to early pioneers that came to this area in the 1700s to settle and live.

The counties of Barren, Allen and Monroe were formerly part of Green and Warren counties and were established around 1797. Originally the entire territory had been set aside for military service grants for veterans of the Revolutionary War.

Port Oliver, near the dam, was formerly called Port Oliver Ford, and was the site of a brine-well field for producing table salt. Baileys Point Recreation Area was the site of an antebellum farmhouse, built by early settlers to the area, named Foster. A family cemetery remains with gravestones and stone vaults that date back to the early 1800s.