Nestled in the rolling hills of south-central Kentucky lies Barren River Lake, a 10,000-acre playground that’s home to an array of aquatic species and an amazing collection of wildlife. It’s a haven for boating aficionados and outdoor enthusiasts that beckons with excellent fishing, skiing, canoeing, horseback riding and hiking adventures — even priceless relaxing down time.
Situated on the eastern side of the 140-mile shoreline is newly renovated Narrows Marina, which has undergone a series of challenges since it re-opened under new management in April 2013. “We completely re-did the store, roofs and rafters,” said Wayne Shelton, who acquired the property in December 2012. “With commitment and dedication, we were up and running in about five-and-a-half months.”
Though the summer of 2013 was unusually rainy, Shelton said the renovated marina’s first boating season went a lot better than anticipated, with a 25-percent occupancy. His main objective in re-introducing the Narrows to the boating community included a menu of options: fuel, Internet and rentals — from a fleet of jet skis, deck and houseboats.
A massive winter storm wrecked havoc with Shelton’s expansion plans for 2014, dumping some 200,000 pounds of ice that collapsed the dock roof. Still, he managed to get the marina up and running in time for boaters to hit the lake. “We got that [damaged area] fixed as open slips and opened this past April,” he said.
In an effort to accommodate the cruising crowd, 14 new 12- by 30-foot slips became available in July. The marina has transient docks with a nice campground nearby for boaters who trailer boats and want to spend some time enjoying the lake attractions.
And weekend boaters can enjoy the tastes of summer at the Narrows, indulging in grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and pork shoulder on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. “If the grilling works out this summer, we’ve got a spot in the store for a restaurant,” Shelton said.
What’s really great about the Narrows Marina setup is the unique benefit boaters derive from Shelton’s dual ownership at Barren River State Park Marina. “If it’s not at the Narrows, we can bring what they need from State Dock [at Barren River State Park Marina],” he said. Customers also have the option to switch marinas fee-free. “All they need to do is just to be up with the meter reader,” Shelton said.
Looking ahead, “there’s roughly 41 acres here, and there’s room to expand,” Shelton said.
Barren River Lake provides a delightful getaway for regional boaters and offers a variety of not-to-be-missed sights within a trio of counties: Barren, Edmonson and Monroe. Because of its centrally situated Barren County location, I stayed in Cave City off Interstate 65.
From there and a few minutes drive to the west, you can explore the intriguing region in neighboring Edmonson County, which houses Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world. Ranger-guided tours along 10 miles of passages unfold the stunning beauty of the caverns carved deep inside the Earth.
Or take a short, scenic drive east over to the Barren County seat, Glasgow, and step-back-in-time with a visit to some of the town’s historical venues. The Civil War era comes alive at Fort Williams (built in 1863), while the Hall Place Bed & Breakfast once frequented by Abraham Lincoln showcases pre-Civil War living. It’s listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
An interesting stop on the sightseeing itinerary might include the Old Mulkey Meeting House State Historic Site, the oldest freestanding log church in Kentucky. Constructed in 1804, it originally served as a house of worship for the Mill Creek Baptist Church. Today, it’s part of a 20-acre park with picnic area, playground and gift shop located in Tompkinsville (Monroe County), just 44 miles southeast of Barren River.
2236 Narrows Road
Lucas, KY 42156
Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Fuel: Unleaded, non-ethanol
Dockage: 86 slips up to 70 feet in length; can accommodate any size of boat, including houseboats
Amenities: 30 and 50 amp electric; Internet; boat rentals; bait and tackle; pump-out at at Barren River State Park Marina
Getting there by boat: Latitude 36.90508, Longitude -86.07409
Getting there by car: Take 31E South (Scottsville Road) for approximately 8 miles. Turn onto Highway 1318 heading west. Signs are posted for the Narrows Boat Dock. At the stop sign in Lucas, turn left. Turn right at the first road in front of The Narrow Way Bed & Breakfast. Continue on to Narrows Boat Dock.