Martins Fork Dam

Nashville District
Published Jan. 11, 2024
Martins Fork Lake Dam construction seen from above in black and white

Martins Fork Lake Dam

Martins Fork Lake Dam seen from above in black and white

Martins Fork Lake Dam


Martins Fork Lake is located at river mile 15.6 on the Martins Fork of the Cumberland River in the scenic mountainous terrain of Harlan County, 13 miles southeast of the town of Harlan, Kentucky.

Martins Fork is fed from two primary sources, Martins Fork and Cranks Creek, which meet in the upper end of the lake.  Below the dam, Martins Fork flows in a northerly direction to Harlan, where it joins the Clover Fork, which then joins the Poor Fork to form the Cumberland River.

The lake is one of several multi-purpose projects in the Cumberland River Basin that is operated and maintained by the Corps of Engineers.   The lake is part of the coordinated plan for development of water resources for the Cumberland River Basin.  The project was authorized by the Flood Control Act of October 1965 to provide flood control, recreation, and water quality control.

Construction of the project began in December 1973, and the lake was impounded in December 1978.  The overall project design and plan of development has been formulated by the Corps of Engineers in cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies.  The dam, water control station, and reservoir are managed and operated by Corps of Engineers personnel under the direction of the District Engineer at Nashville, Tennessee.

Martins Fork Lake Dam




Concrete-gravity and earthfill



Maximum height, feet

97' above streambed

Width, feet


Elevations (above mean sea level):


Top of dam








Normal Pool elevation



340 acres

Storage reservoir

6,758 acre-feet


Minimum Pool elevation



274 acres

Storage reservoir

3,700 acre-feet


Full Flood Control Pool elevation

1341’ msl


578 acres

Storage Reservoir

21,100 acre-feet




Total Project area

1324 acres

Developed recreation area

50 acres

Undeveloped area
(Martins Fork Wildlife Management Area)

1074 acres


55.7 square miles