Kentucky's Western Waterlands[dead link] region is at the western edge of the state, and is home to popular outdoor recreation areas around Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley and Land Between the Lakes. The region is bounded on the north by the Ohio River and on the west by the Mississippi River. Kentucky's two largest lakes, Kentucky Lake, 160,000 acres and Lake Barkley, 58,000 acres, provide 600 square miles of waterways and parks with 2,390 miles of shoreline. There are fishing, boating and camping opportunities to satisfy the most avid outdoorsman. There are seven state parks in this region and Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.
Whether you like to swim with the fish or catch them, Kentucky's Western Lakes & Rivers Region offers opportunities for outdoor recreation. The Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers, combined with Lake Barkley & Kentucky Lake, create a virtual playground of recreation in the 15 counties of Western Kentucky. Fishing, hunting, boating, hiking and wildlife viewing are just a few of the many outdoor opportunities. On land you can enjoy the beautiful parks and privately owned resorts, quaint bed and breakfasts and hotels/motels around the region. Enjoy trips to history museums and art galleries, golf, tennis, and horseback riding. One-of-a-kind festivals and other special events add to the unique heritage and culture throughout the region.
The name "Western Waterlands" and similar terms are used only for tourism promotion—locals do not use the term to describe this area, and also do not consider the area to be a single region. Instead, locals divide the region into two:
- Jackson Purchase, or just the Purchase — The region west of the Tennessee River. Locals in some counties on the east bank of the river, especially Livingston and Lyon Counties, often see themselves as part of the Purchase in spirit if not in geography.
- The Pennyrile — The rest of the "Waterlands" region; the name comes from the local pronunciation of "pennyroyal", a plant common to the area. Almost all of the region lies on the Pennyroyal Plateau, named after the plant.
- Hopkinsville Area - Todd County & Christian County
- Cadiz/Lake Barkley Area - Trigg County & Caldwell County
- Lakes Area - Lyon County, Livingston County & Crittenden County
- Murray/Kentucky Lake Area - Calloway County & Marshall County
- Paducah Area - McCracken County, Ballard County & Carlisle
- Mayfield Area - Graves County, Hickman County & Fulton County
- 1 Aurora
- 2 Grand Rivers - Located on both Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley and at the north entrance to Land Between the Lakes; This is a village filled with authentic charm, surrounded by water and the great outdoors.
- 3 Hopkinsville - From rural rolling farmland adored by bikers, to steep terrain with expansive vistas enjoyed by hikers, to golf, parks and loads of water sports, outdoor enthusiasts can always find something to do in Christian County. If a museum, community theatre, or antique shopping sound more intriguing, there is plenty of indoor entertainment options, too.
- 4 Murray - Influenced by Western Kentucky charm, a strong art and theater presence, and a progressive university town attitude.
- 5 Paducah - Enjoy thriving arts district, wide variety of cultural pursuits, rich history, fine dining, and eclectic accommodations.
- 6 Benton - The people are friendly, life is easy, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Stay on the water's edge or venture inland to a unique bed and breakfast. Anchor in a bay to yourself or head for the golf courses.
- 7 Cadiz - If you take a step back in time and walk downtown Main Street before the late 1800s and early 1900s you would find the same buildings dominating the city. After all these years the important elements of the city and county landscape remain. The present day courthouse, completed in 1922 stands today, both serving as a center of county government and a witness to times past. Buildings built before we were born, reminiscent of days gone by. And yet they remain the basic building blocks of the city and its landscape. 
- 8 Eddyville /Kuttawa - Lake Barkley, combined with Kentucky Lake, total 160,000 acres of water and expansive shorelines ideal for boating, fishing, hunting, golfing, hiking, camping, shopping, wildlife viewing and relaxing.
- 9 Mayfield - Unfold the pages of time and discover the graciousness of Mayfield and Graves County -- sporting events, cultural activities and historical districts. Sadly, most of the city, including all of the historic district, suffered catastrophic damage in a December 2021 tornado, with recovery expected to last into the 2030s.
- 10 Oak Grove - Kentucky's "Rising Star" is located on the border of Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee.
- 11 Princeton - little bits of history.
- 1 Lake Barkley
- 2 Kentucky Lake
- 3 Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
- Kentucky State Parks
- Lake Barkley State Resort Park[dead link] rests on the shores of one of the world's largest man-made lakes and provides for an array of outdoor activity.
- Kenlake State Resort Park[dead link]: Located on the mid-west shore of Kentucky Lake, with the longest shoreline of any man-made lake in the eastern United States, Kenlake is the perfect spot to enjoy the great outdoors.
- Mineral Mound State Park: This peaceful setting on the shores of Lake Barkley is historically linked to the author F. Scott Fitzgerald.
- Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site[dead link] is an archaeological site of a Native American village of the Mississippian culture.
- Columbus-Belmont State Park, often called the "Gibraltar of the West" by the Confederates, was considered by them the key to their defense of the upper Mississippi River valley.
- Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park[dead link]: Named for the tiny Pennyroyal plant found in the woodlands surrounding this resort, Pennyrile Forest is the perfect back-to-nature hideaway.
There are multiple websites online today that provide information about the Western Waterlands region. Whether you want to learn about Kentucky Lake & Lake Barkley fishing, golf courses, area restaurants, boating information, hunting information, community information, or more, the following websites can help you do research about where to go and what to do in the Western Waterlands region:
- Livingston County KY, North Entrance to Land Between The Lakes
- Western Waterlands Official Website Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkely & Land Between the Lakes information
Fishing licenses in Kentucky
The license year in Kentucky starts on March 1. The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources publishes current fees on its website.
Children 15 and younger, whether Kentucky residents or nonresidents, are not required to possess a fishing license.
- Fishing License (annual): $55.00
- One-Day Fishing License: $15.00
- Joint Fishing License (spouses) – No longer available to non-residents.
- Combination Hunting & Fishing License – No longer available to non-residents.
- Senior/Disabled Licenses – No longer available to non-residents.
- 7-Day Fishing License $35.00
Note that Kentucky's definition of "resident" for hunting and fishing purposes includes full-time residential students at its colleges and universities, as well as active-duty military personnel stationed in Kentucky.
There is no closed angling season in Kentucky.
The Western Waterlands region is accessible by car using Interstates 24 and 69, US Hwys 62, 68 & 641, the Western Kentucky Parkway, the Purchase Parkway (much of which is now designated as I-69) and KY 80.
There is a Greyhound Bus Terminal in Paducah.
There is an Amtrak train terminal in Fulton, Kentucky, 50 southwest of Benton at the end of the Purchase Pkwy.
- Small craft airports:
- Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park Airport - Gilbertsville - M34
- Lake Barkley State Park Airport - Cadiz - 1M9
- Marion - Crittenden County Airport - Marion - 5M9
- Mayfield - Graves County Airport - Mayfield - M25
- Murray - Calloway County Airport[dead link] - Murray - CEY
- Hopkinsville - Christian County Airport - Hopkinsville - HVC
- Princeton - Caldwell County Airport - Princeton - 2M0
- Nearest Scheduled Airline Service - Barkley Regional Airport (PAH IATA) in Paducah.
- Nearest International Airport - Nashville International Airport[dead link] (BNA IATA) in Nashville.
- A total solar eclipse on Monday 8 April 2024 crosses the northwest corner of the State at about 2PM, visible from Paducah. The track of totality is northeast from Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, then across the south tip of Illinois to Indiana and Ohio.
- 1 Mineral Mound State Park, 48 Finch Ln. Eddyville, ☏ , email@example.com. This peaceful setting on the shores of Lake Barkley is historically linked to the author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The property was once the farm of Willis B. Machen, grandfather of the author's wife, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. It's not hard to imagine the serene, Gatsby-style era from this park, with idyllic days of playing golf and cruising the lake.
- 2 Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site, 94 Green St., Wickliffe, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM to 4PM April - October, Thursday - Sunday. A Native American village once occupied the site of Wickliffe Mounds, about A.D. 1100 to 1350. Here, people of the Mississippian culture built earthen mounds and permanent houses around a central plaza overlooking the Mississippi River. Today, this Native American Indian archaeological site features mounds surrounded by abundant wildlife, museum exhibits, a walking trail, welcome center, a gift shop and picnic areas. Adults $5 Seniors and Children 5-15 $4 Active Military $3.
- Bee Spring Lodge, 573 Spring Road, Benton, ☏ . F-M 6AM-2PM.
- The Big Apple Cafe, 1005 Arcadia Circle, Murray, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-midnight. Enjoy unique Mexican food, deli sandwiches, BBQ, Cajun specials, fresh salads, and a full bar. Private Dining Rooms available for parties and meetings.
- Brass Lantern Restaurant, 16593 US 68 E, Aurora, ☏ . Open at 5 pm. Charbroiled steaks, prime rib, lobster tail. Children's and lite menus starting at $2.99. Casual atmosphere. Call for reservations and/or days of seasonal operation.
- Broadbent B&B Foods, 257 Mary Blue Road, Kuttawa (I24, Exit 40), ☏ . 8AM to 4PM Monday - Saturday. Country sliced bacon, country sausage, spiral sliced ham, a variety of dry cured meats, country baked ham, or turkey.
- The Oasis Southwest Grill, 42 Day Inn Dr, Kuttawa (I-24, Exit 40), ☏ . Known for great steak & ribs, but also featuring bison, fish, chicken & pasta dishes. Full-service bar with draft & premium beer, wine & specialty drinks. 359-seat restaurant with TVs & music.
- Buzzard Rock Cafe, 985 Buzzard Rock Road, Kuttawa, ☏ . Open March - October Seasonal Hours. Breakfast, lunch and dinner with view of Lake Barkley. In season weekend breakfast buffet, super salads and specials featuring the big ½ lb. Buzzard Burger. Cold beer, wine and spirits.
Useful phone numbers in case of emergency.
- Fire/Police/Ambulance: 911
- Kentucky State Police Emergency: 800 222-5555.
- Poison Control Center: 270 753-7588.
- Marshall County Rescue Squad: 270 527-9092.
Most telephone numbers in this region consist of +1 270 plus a seven-digit number, but the region is now served by an overlay complex of two area codes, with +1 364 being the second. A local or in-state telephone call requires all 10 digits of the local number be dialed (omitting just the leading +1 from a local landline call).
Signage on many established businesses may still display the original seven-digit numbers; dial 270 before these if no area code is indicated.