Savoring the Outdoors and History at Land Between the Lakes
My favorite playgrounds involve woods, water and wildlife so Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area with its hiking trails, historic sites, roaming buffalo, bugling elk and swooping fish eagles landing is very appealing. About 90 miles northwest of Nashville, one-third of LBL’s 270 square miles are in Tennessee with the remainder in Kentucky.
LBL, a 40-mile long peninsula, is surrounded by Kentucky Lake (Tennessee River) on the west and Lake Barkley (Cumberland River) on the east. Anglers and boaters have access to both lakes and 300 miles of shoreline that offer protected waters for kayaks and canoes to explore. This is a perfect outdoor destination in my book.
Welcome stations at the southern and northern ends of LBL are connected by The Trace, the primary north-south driving corridor. The Golden Pond Visitor Center is mid-way between and open daily year round with maps, information and knowledgeable staff to get you started whether you are interested in hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, large or small game and waterfowl hunting, fishing, 100 miles of OHV trails on the 2,500-acre Turkey Bay Off-Highway Vehicle Area or wildlife viewing.
There are lots of birds at LBL including resident bald eagles but December, January and February are peak months for seeing migrating eagles.
There are sightseeing stops that offer entertaining ways to learn about history and nature. One of the most popular stops is The Homeplace, a re-created working 1850s farm. The tour begins in a modern museum with exhibits about life on the farm through the seasons. It’s all kid friendly and pet friendly too if your pet is on a leash and under control.
I enjoyed moseying around The Homeplace’s 16 log buildings, gardens and farm animals including heritage breeds like big Ayrshire oxen and woodworker artisans using 1800s tools.
The Homeplace is open March to November, but on Saturday December 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. interpreters and historians explain how the Civil War affected families and farm life in occupied Tennessee. At 1 p.m., historian Karel Lea Biggs presents a program on the civilian experience in Middle Tennessee.
On Saturday, December 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., make felt snowmen from wool gathered on the farm, yarn angels and ornate paper-folded stars dipped in beeswax while gingerbread cookie decorations bake in the wood stove. This is an 1850s style Christmas holiday workshop. Reservations and a $50 fee are required for this event. Call 270-924-2020 for more details.
Just across The Trace, I saw distant views of big, shaggy bison grazing on the south range pastures but there’s more to come as you cross into Kentucky.
The Golden Pond Visitor Center, Planetarium and Observatory lie about ten miles north of the state line. The Visitor Center has information about the 3.5-mile loop road through the restored 700-acre elk and bison prairie and precautions to take when dealing with critters that may weigh 2,000 pounds and may charge you without warning. The loop is open to vehicles year round from dawn to dusk. The planetarium offers several shows daily through December 23.
The annual Audubon Christmas bird count is scheduled for December 15 from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Participants should register at 270-924-2299 and plan to gather at the Nature Station (another interesting spot to visit on the Kentucky side of LBL) to get organized.
Throughout LBL camping choices include developed tent and RV campgrounds, equestrian camping, primitive and back country camping in the woods or lakeside. There are gravel roads leading to hidden coves where you can find many species of fish … and so much more. I’m sure you’ll see things I missed. I hope you’ll experience this premier outdoor adventure land and let me know what you enjoy most.
Paris Landing State Park is 11 miles west of the south entrance (U.S. 79) if you want dinner or need a room for the night (see my previous blog on Paris Landing here). For more information call 800-525-7077 or visit www.lbl.org.