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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Grayson Lake’s rocky cliffs and waterfalls offer varied outdoor experience

This is the 14th article in an ongoing series about Kentucky’s major reservoirs.

Grayson Lake (Photo from Kentucky State Parks)

Grayson Lake is in Carter and Elliott counties.

The dam is about 7 miles south of Grayson, off Ky. 7. Construction began in 1964, and the lake opened in April 1969.

The main access highways are Ky. 7, Ky. 986, and Ky. 504.


Impounded from the Little Sandy River, Grayson Lake is relatively narrow. The 19.7-miles lake has 74.2 miles of shoreline, and its maximum depth is 60 feet, near the dam.

At summer pool, elevation 645, the lake has 1,510 surface acres. The winter pool elevation is 637, which reduces the surface acreage to 1,160.

State Park

Grayson Lake State Park, open year-round, is on the west shore of the lake, reached via Ky. 7, 10 miles south of Grayson, KY. The park campground opened in 1970.

Facilities include a campground, open seasonally, with 71 full-service campsites, playground and 18-hole golf course.

There are two hiking trails, the .8-mile Beech-Hemlock Forest Trail, which features wildflowers, rhododendron and soaring timber, and the rugged 3-mile Lick Falls Trail.

For information telephone 606-474-9727.

Lake Manager’s Office

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Grayson Lake, Resource Manager’s Office, 50 Launch Ramp Road, Grayson, KY 41143, telephone 606-474-5815.

Managing Fishery Biologist

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Northeastern Fishery District, Tom Timmermann, District Biologist, 120 Fish Hatchery Road, Morehead, KY 40351, telephone (606) 783-8650.

Grayson Lake Marina (Photo from Kentucky Tourism)


There is one marina.

Grayson Lake Marina, open seasonally, is 7 miles south of Grayson, off Ky. 7. For information telephone 606-474-4513.

Boat Launching Ramps

There are five boat launching ramps on the lake. There is no fee to launch at any of the ramps.

The Damsite boat ramp is adjacent to the marina, just off Ky. 7. The Clifty Creek boat ramp is 2 miles southwest of the dam, off Ky. 7. The Bruin Creek boat ramp is 4 miles southwest of the dam, off Ky. 7. The Caney Creek boat ramp is 11 miles southwest of the dam, off Ky. 504. The Newfoundland boat ramp is at the head of the lake, off Ky. 7.

Local Tourism Information

Grayson Tourism and Convention Commission, 200 North Carol Malone Blvd., Grayson, KY 41143, telephone 606-474-8740.


Grayson Lake is a mesotrophic lake of moderate productivity.

A reservoir of varied character, above Bruin Creek, the lakeshore changes from rolling, green hills to a scenic rock canyon, with numerous waterfalls cascading off 50- to 150-foot limestone bluffs.

Cover types include standing timber in the side hollows on the west bank of the lake, rugged rocky shorelines above Bruin Creek and scattered beds of aquatic vegetation.

Grayson Lake supports populations of three species of black bass, bluegill, two species of catfish, crappie, and hybrid striped bass.

The main forage fish is gizzard shad.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass fishery is rated fair, with the best population in Bruin Creek. Fish the shoreline vegetation.

The largemouth is the dominant species, about 80 percent of all black bass in the lake.

In 1982 Grayson Lake became the first major lake in Kentucky to have a 15-inch minimum size limit on largemouth bass.

Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth bass fishery is rated poor, rarely seen while sampling, but there are concentrations of the fish in Deer Creek, near the dam.

Spotted Bass

The spotted bass fishery is rated fair, with the best fishing in the lower two-thirds of the lake.

Hybrid Striped Bass

The hybrid striped bass fishery is rated good, with large, fast-growing fish present. In the summer, fish the lower lake, in the late fall, fish are congregated in the Bruin Creek area.


The catfish fishery is rated good, with fish widespread throughout the lake. The channel catfish is the dominant species, with fewer numbers of flathead catfish. The middle and upper sections of the lake offer the best fishing in the fall.


The crappie fishery is rated fair.

Both white crappie and black crappie are present.

Some of the best fishing of the year occurs in the upper lake in the spring, when fish are concentrated on woody structure in shallow coves.

During the summer fish will school up along channel breaks and fish attractors near deep water.


The bluegill fishery is rated good, numerous in number and up to 7 inches long.

May and June are the best fishing months when fish are found along the banks in 5 to 6-feet of water.

Special Regulations/Minimum Size Limits and Daily Creel Limits

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass: 15-inch minimum size limit.

A waterfall at Grayson Lake (pPoto by Ultrich Burkhalter, Flickr Commons)

Tailwaters Fishing Opportunities

The tailwaters is small and cool-water habitat extends for about 1/2 mile downstream to the confluence of Little Stinking Creek.

The dam’s tailrace is lined with riprap and most trout congregate in an eddy at the end of the tailrace.

A total of about 5,000 rainbow trout are stocked in the tailwaters annually. Stockings are in April. May, June, October and November.

Invasive Plants and Animals

Small, isolated beds of curly pondweed (Potamogeton crispus) and American pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus) are present around the Bruin boat ramp, and up in the Big Caney Creek.

Neither species has become invasive in Grayson Lake.

Fish Attractors

Fish attractors made from Christmas trees have been placed in four locations in the lake, near the dam, in Clifty Creek, Bruin Creek and Little Caney Creek, near the head of the lake.

Bank Access and Fishing Piers

There is good bank access in the tailwaters and a fishing pier is located just above the dam, off Ky. 7

Grayson Lake is one of eastern Kentucky’s most scenic lakes, with rocky cliffs, waterfalls, and secluded kayaking opportunities. Don’t pass up this varied outdoors experience.

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