Photo of Dale Hollow Dam, with a dam with water pouring through the turbines, people in lower left looking up at it.


Laurel River Dam

Nashville District
Published Jan. 11, 2024
Laurel River Dam diagram

Laurel River Dam diagram

Laurel River Dam seen from above with trees on both sides

Laurel River Dam

Laurel River Lake is a key project in the development of the Cumberland River Basin.  The lake is located in southeastern Kentucky, encompassing portions of Laurel and Whitley Counties. In the 1960's, Congress authorized construction of a dam on the Laurel River 2.3 miles above its confluence with the Cumberland River.  The dam created a 5,600 acre lake, which provides hydroelectric power, a safe supply of drinking water for local communities, and recreation opportunities for the public. Construction of the dam by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers began in December 1964 and Laurel River Lake was impounded in 1974.  The dam’s power plant was completed and began producing electricity in 1977.

The Laurel Dam rises 282 feet above the stream bed.  The combination earth and rock fill dam is 1,420 feet long with a hydroelectric power generating plant.  At normal summer pool (Elevation 1015) the 19.2-mile long lake with its 206 miles of shoreline contains 5,600 surface areas of water. Average annual energy output is 67 million kilowatt hours.



Hydropower operations at Laurel River Lake differ from those at other projects along the Cumberland River System.  East Kentucky Power recieves all the hydropower generated at Laurel and they determine when to run the unit .  The Corps doesn't know until after the fact and has limited control over scheduling releases at Laurel.

SEPA (Southeastern Power Authority) is the Corps main contact concerning generations at Laurel.  They are required to generate at least a 1/2 hour every other day and at least 700 MWH per week.  The water control manual says that the mean sea level (MSL) elevation should be maintained as close to guide curve as possible; however, generations can be made on an as needed basis.


Pertinent Data







   Maximum height, feet


   Length, feet


Elevations (above mean sea level):


   Top of dam, roadway


   Spillway crest







1 unit

Generator Rating, kilowatts


Estimated energy output, average yearly, kilowatt-hours






Drainage area, square miles:


Length of pool at Elev. 1018.5 River miles:


Length of shoreline, pool at Elev. 1018.5, miles:


Area, acres:


   Maximum of flood-control pool (Elev. 1025.60)


   Maximum power pool (Elev. 1018.50)


   Average recreation pool (Elev. 1012.0)


Storage capacities, acre-feet:


   Power drawdown (Elev. 1018.5 to 982.0)


   Permanent pool (below Elev. 982.0


   Total (below Elev. 504.5)


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