In 1960, 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 recreational opportunities for the public.
Construction of the dam, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, began in December of 1964 and Laurel River Lake was impounded in 1974. The dam's power plant was completed and began producing electricity in 1977.
Since its impoundment, the U.S. Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers have cooperated in the ongoing work of developing public recreational facilities on and around the lake. Today, most of the lake is administered by the Forest Service, London Ranger District, while the Corps of Engineers oversees the operation of Laurel River Dam and recreation facilities at the dam site.
The lake provides excellent fishing for black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, and Kentucky), rainbow trout, walleye, crappie, bluegill and catfish. Night fishing for trout is popular during the summer. Fishing licenses can be purchased at county clerks' offices, marinas, and many local stores.
Seven launch ramps provide access to the lake. There are also two full service marinas located at Holly Bay and Grove recreational areas. The marinas are open year round.
The quiet bays and backwaters of the lake are good places to view wildlife. The lake has a resident population of giant Canada geese and is home to wintering bald eagles.
The Corp of Engineers maintains a swimming beach at the spillway of Laurel River Dam. The beach is ungaurded and bathers must swim at their own risk.
The clear water and submerged rock formations make Laurel River Lake a popular destination for scuba divers.