SMITH, Ky. (Oct. 31, 2018) – It’s that time of year when red and yellow fall foliage attracts hikers seeking spectacular views on the Cumberland Shadow Trail that winds along the shoreline, hilltops and ridges overlooking Martins Fork Lake.
Park Ranger Dave Robinson with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District said the sights along the trail are very scenic, but cautions inexperienced hikers to be aware of the challenging terrain and to be prepared for the nearly five-mile trek.
“It does run through the Martins Fork Wildlife Management Area, which is part of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Wildlife Management Area System,” Robinson said. “We do encourage hikers and other trail users to be aware that this is a public hunting area, and there is abundant wildlife in the area to include black bears.”
Robinson said hikers should have enough water, food and medicine as needed, dress in layers with colder temperatures, wear appropriate footwear, and dress with bright colors so hunters can easily identify them on the trail. He also suggests getting an early start because it takes four to five hours to make the hike and it gets dark earlier during the fall and winter months.
“You want to wear something that makes you stand out from the environment,” Robinson stressed. “This is a multi-use area. We have hunters, hikers, fishermen – you name it we’ve got it.”
Robinson said hikers also need to know there is limited cell phone reception on the trail, mostly on top of ridges, so he encourages everyone to use the buddy system whenever possible to look out for one another.
“There is safety in numbers,” Robinson said. “Another helpful safety practice is to make your family and friends aware of when and where you are hiking and when you plan to return. If you get into trouble they will know to notify authorities to look for you.”
The Corps of Engineers partners with the Harlan County Fiscal Court Recreation Department to operate and maintain the trail that skirts the west side of the lake. Trailheads are located above the most northern bridge over the lake and below the dam.
There are also two primitive campsites along the trail for backpackers. For more information on these camping opportunities, call the Martins Fork Lake Resource Manager’s Office at 606-573-7655.
Besides the fall foliage, there is a historical landmark along the trail that is worth stopping by to pay respects to a noteworthy veteran. The Shackleford Cemetery includes the grave of Revolutionary War Soldier Henry Shackleford Jr. Visitors can hike by the cemetery, which is accessible by a one-mile walk on the trail from the northern trailhead.
According to the Kentucky Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Martins Station Chapter of the Virginia Society placed a military grave marker in the cemetery Oct. 22, 2011 to recognize Shackleford’s service. He was born in 1764 in King William County, Va., and served three tours of duty during the war for independence. For his service he received a land grant in an area of Knox County that became Harlan County, and he settled there in 1800. He passed away in 1848 and many of his descendants still live in the tri state area of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
Robinson added that boaters on Martins Fork Lake and hikers along the shoreline should be aware of frigid water that can cause hypothermia if submersed. He said it is important to wear a life jacket and to be very aware and careful on and around the water.
During the winter months, Martins Fork Lake is drawn down about 10 feet. The lake is reduced from 340 to approximately 275 acres, which exposes hazards such as stumps and rocks that are normally under water.
“Be prepared for any situation you may run into while hunting, fishing, boating or hiking here at Martins Fork Lake,” Robinson said. “Take a few minutes to make sure you have the right equipment, including first aid kit, to support your activity.”
(For more information about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, visit the district’s website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also follow Martins Fork Lake on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/martinsforklake.)