Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  What is the average depth and temperature of Martins Fork Lake?

A:  The average depth is approximately 12-15 feet.  The elevation of the lake varies from a winter low of about 1300 feet above mean sea level to a summer recreation pool of 1310’ msl to a flood storage capacity of 1341’ msl.  The average temperature of the lake in 2000 was close to 58 degrees Fahrenheit.  The warmest temperature, 84 degrees was recorded in mid-August and the coolest, 32 degrees, was recorded in early January.

Q:  What is the deepest part of the lake?

A:  The deepest part of Martins Fork Lake is just upstream of the dam at approximately 45’.

Q:  What Rules and Regulations govern the land and waters of the lake?   

A:  The Rules and Regulations governing public use of the Corps of Engineers water resource development projects are contained in Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  Visitors are bound by these regulations.  Punishment of not more than six months imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than $5,000 may be issued to violators.  A copy of Title 36 Rules and Regulations is available from the Martins Fork Lake Resource Manager’s Office.  An on-line version is provided at the Government Printing Office’s Site. 

Q:  Why was the dam built?   

A:  Martins Fork Dam was built to help control flooding on the upper Cumberland River.  Martins Fork is the uppermost dam on the Cumberland River System.  It is one of 10 dams constructed on the Cumberland River System.  Martins Fork Dam is located at river mile 15.6, approximately 12 miles southeast of Harlan, Kentucky.  Other project purposes include recreation and water quality.

Q:  How big is the dam?   

A:  Martins Fork Dam is 504’ wide and stands 97’ tall.  Approximately 400,000 cubic yards of concrete was poured into the dam.  Construction on the dam began in 1973 and was completed in 1978.  Water is controlled with three 4’x4’ sluice gates.  

Q: Why is Harlan County on some of the lake signs?

A:  Martins Fork Lake is unique among the Nashville District lakes.  Martins Fork was authorized under Public Law 89-72, which states that recreation at Martins Fork must be provided by a local partner.  Martins Fork’s recreation facilities are operated and maintained by the Harlan County Fiscal Court.  The Corps of Engineers does not provide any funding for recreation at Martins Fork.

Q:  Can I use my metal detector around the lake?

A:  That depends.  According to an official memorandum of policy from the Directorate of Civil Works and dated March 10, 1989, metal detectors are allowed under certain conditions.  The use of metal detectors will be allowed on public beaches or other previously disturbed areas that do not contain or would not reasonably be expected to contain archaeological, historical, or paleontological resources.  Nonidentifiable items, such as coins of nominal value ($25.00 or less) do not need to be deposited with the natural resource manager or ranger.  Identifiable items (rings, watches, etc.) or items or greater than nominal value will be deposited with the natural resource manager or ranger.  Digging shall be limited to hand tools that can be used by one hand only.  Hand tools shall be limited to 4 inches wide and 12 inches long.  All trash uncovered must be removed and placed in an approved trash receptacle.  All soil disturbed or displaced shall be returned to its original state.  In addition, we would ask that any such approved use of metal detectors take place during times when it will not interfere with the public’s recreational use of an area, i.e. not on busy weekends at beaches and recreation areas.