Martins Fork Lake

Nashville District
Published Jan. 10, 2024
A shoreline view of Martins Fork Lake

A shoreline view of Martins Fork Lake


Camping and Shelters

All recreation facilities at Martins Fork Lake are operated by the Harlan County Fiscal Court. 

Smith Recreation Area Group Campsite A group camping area is available at the Smith Recreation Area. The site has 10 tent pads, a small shelter, picnic tables, grill and fire ring, running water, and sanitary facilities.  The Group Camp is located right on the lake and offers sun, shade, and plenty of fishing opportunities.  There is no fee for the Group Camp, however reservations are required. To reserve the Smith Recreation Area Group Camp, please call the Resource Manager’s Office at (606) 573-7655.


Beachfront Shelter offers a wonderful view of the lake and cool summer breezes from its vista overlooking the beach and lake. This is the largest shelter at Martins Fork and it has a fireplace, electrical service, grills, water fountain, horseshoe pits, stage, sanitary facilities, and universally accessible picnic tables.  It is universally accessible and will accommodate approximately 150 people.

Hilltop Shelter offers a shady area for group activities. Amenities include; grills, picnic tables, horseshoe pits, playground equipment, sanitary facilities, water fountain, and is convenient to the fishing pier. The shelter will accommodate approximately 80 people.

There are many other picnic sites available on a first come, first served basis. Please call the Resource Manager’s Office for more information.


Because of the Martins Fork’s small size, boats are restricted to motors with 10 hp or less. We do offer waivers for boats with greater than 10 hp motors.  Boaters interested in obtaining a waiver must have a boat safety inspection by one of the lake staff. Proper boat registration, drivers license, operating navigation lights, PFD’s, and fire extinguisher are required for a waiver. For more information contact the Resource Manager’s Office at (606) 573-7655.   

Fishing & Hunting

Fishing is a popular at Martins Fork with its numerous opportunities to catch Bass, crappie, walleye, bluegill, and catfish.  Limits at Martins Fork fall under the statewide size and creel limits posted by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Martins Fork Lake offers barrier free fishing areas at the Smith Recreation Area and below the dam on the tailwaters. During the winter, volunteers place artificial fish habitat structures in the lake.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers administers 1,074 acres of land as part of the Martins Fork Lake Project. Much of this land is open to public hunting.  The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources administers the wildlife management program and cooperates with the Corps to perform management practices to benefit wildlife.  

Hunting at Martins Fork WMA is open under statewide regulations for all hunting and trapping.

Portable tree stands are allowed, but must be removed at the end of each day’s hunt.

No vehicles of any type may be taken off of authorized roadways.   

The Smith Recreation Area and the Resource Managers Office/Operations Area is closed to public hunting.

Reminder: It is prohibited to possess a loaded firearm, ammunition, loaded projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, or other weapons unless: 1) In the possession of a Federal, State, or Local Law Enforcement Officer 2) Being used for hunting or fishing as permitted under State and Federal Law, or 3) Being used at an authorized shooting range.

There are no authorized shooting ranges currently open to the public at Martins Fork Lake. Therefore, target shooting and sighting in of firearms is prohibited.

Scuba & Swimming

Scuba diving is allowed at Martin's Fork Lake. Be advised the lake has very low visibility and few underwater sites. Divers must display a "Diver Down" flag in the area where they are diving. Boaters should be alert to the "Diver Down" flag and keep a safe distance away. 

Swimming in Martin's Fork Lake is one of the more popular water-based activities.  Swimming is prohibited at launching ramps, mooring points, marinas, public docks, and posted areas. It is allowed elsewhere, but please swim only Smith Recreation Area Beach. 


Cumberland Shadow Trail is a 5 mile long multi-purpose trail along the backside of the lake. The trailheads are located above the second bridge over the lake and below the dam. The trail is available for use year-round and features excellent views of the lake.  The trail winds its way along the ridges and through the valleys of Martins Fork. There are two primitive campsites along the trail for backpackers. During the fall, hunters also use the area along the trail, so please use caution.



5965 Highway 987, Smith, Ky 40831
Monday-Friday 8:00 AM -4:30 PM