Carr Creek Lake

Louisville District
Published Jan. 10, 2024
Aerial view of the dam at Carr Creek Lake in Sassafras, Kentucky.

Aerial view of the dam at Carr Creek Lake in Sassafras, Kentucky.

Aerial view of the dam at Carr Creek Lake in Sassafras, Kentucky.

843 Sassafras Creek Road
Sassafras, KY 41759-8806
Telephone 606-642-3308
Office hours: M-F, 7:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (may vary, call ahead)

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Welcome to the Carr Creek Lake website. The lake is located in the mountainous region of southeastern Kentucky, about 16 miles from Hazard and 18 miles from Whitesburg.

The dam is located 8.8 miles above the mouth of Carr Fork, a tributary of the North Fork of the Kentucky River.

The 710 acre lake and surrounding area offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. The Corps, in cooperation with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, manages the land and water for wildlife, fisheries and recreation. 


The Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed, built, and operates the project. The project serves as one unit of the comprehensive plan for the Ohio River Basin to reduce the flood stages downstream from the dam. The lake provides water supply storage and operates to increase natural low-flow conditions downstream of the dam in the interest of water quality control. Also, the lake offers boating, fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities to the general public.

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 and property.


Settlement of the Carr Fork area began as early as the 1770s when trappers passed though Cumberland Gap and Pound Gap into the Eastern Kentucky Mountains. Settlers came from North Carolina and Virginia with some from what later became West Virginia and Tennessee. Carr Fork is thought to have gotten its name from William Carr, a well-known “Long Hunter,” who hunted in the area.

Many of the first settlers to the area moved further west as populations of beaver and other furbearers declined. Those settlers who remained depended largely on farming the narrow bottomlands for a living, along with a limited trade supported by several salt licks. A demand for lumber in Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region created a booming business in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the springtime great rafts of hardwood logs rode down the flooded tributaries to the Kentucky River and on to Lexington, Frankfort, and other settlements. When the supply of timber became depleted, coal mining became and remains the area’s major industry.

The geological history of this area is revealed in the exposed rocks of the Carr Fork Lake emergency spillway. A vertical cut through the steep mountains recalls a fascinating period of time that geologists call the Pennsylvanian Period. The oldest rocks to be seen in the spillway are those at the bottom as these sediments were lefty behind first. The rocks and the sediments the rocks were formed from are limestone, made principally from the carbonate of lime and shelled animals such as sea shells; sandstone, formed of sand grains which became cemented together; shales, formed chiefly from silts and clays; and coal, formed from great masses of plants which grew in vast marine or salt water swamps. Geologists tell us that it generally took about 20 feet of decaying vegetation to form just one foot of coal. Much of our knowledge of life that existed in ages past has come from fossilized plants and animals. Some of the fossils exposed during the excavation of this area are on display at the project office.

Louisville District Public Affairs
Carr Creek Lake