Carr Creek Lake (formerly Carr Fork Lake)
Littcarr, Knott County, Kentucky

Carr Creek Lake Photo by J Riley 19 June 2016
Carr Creek Lake 2016
William Medford Smith and Millie Combs Smith Old Homeplace, Smithsboro, Knott County, Kentucky - Photo Submitted by JB Francis


Map of Carr Creek Lake

(Source): Under this lake lies the remains of one of the towns in Eastern Kentucky formerly occupied by some of our ancestors; primarily the William Medford Smith and Millie Combs Smith and other related families. The town of Smithsboro, Knott Co Kentucky lies under this lake. (Thanks to JB Francis for corrections and information about this town and its previous inhabitants). JB Francis tells us that William Medford Smith Sr and Millie Combs were the first to settle the little valley. He tells us this little valley was formed by the confluence of Carr Fork, Big Smith Branch, Little Smith Branch and Irishman Creek.

The lake's main purpose, according to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, is flood control. The lake is located in the mountainous region of southeastern Kentucky, about 16 miles from Hazard, (Perry Co KY) and 18 miles from Whitesburg, (Letcher Co KY). The dam is located 8.8 miles above the mouth of Carr Fork, a tributary of the North Fork of the Kentucky River (in Littcarr, Knott County, Kentucky).

The 710 acre lake and surrounding area offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. The Corps, in cooperation with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, manages the land and water for wildlife, fisheries and recreation. The menu on the right leads you to specific recreation and other lake information.

Nearby attractions include: Carr Creek State Park, Daniel Boone National Forest, Lilley Cornett Woods, Bad Branch Falls Nature Preserve, Little Shepherd Trail, Red River Gorge Geological Area, Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Buckhorn Lake and Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park.

Settlement of the Carr Fork area began as early as the 1770s when trappers passed though Cumberland Gap and Pound Gap into the Eastern Kentucky mountains. Settlers came from North Carolina and Virginia with some from what later became West Virginia and Tennessee. Carr Fork is thought to have gotten its name from William Carr, a well-known “Long Hunter,” who hunted in the area.

Many of the first settlers to the area moved further west as populations of beaver and other furbearers declined. Those settlers who remained dependant largely on farming the narrow bottomlands for a living, along with a limited trade supported by several salt licks. A demand for lumber in Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region created a booming business in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the springtime great rafts of hardwood logs rode down the flooded tributaries to the Kentucky River and on to Lexington, Frankfort, and other settlements. When the supply of timber became depleted, coal mining became and remains the area’s major industry.

The geological history of this area is revealed in the exposed rocks of the Carr Fork Lake emergency spillway. A vertical cut through the steep mountains recalls a fascinating period of time that geologists call the Pennsylvanian Period. The oldest rocks to be seen in the spillway are those at the bottom as these sediments were lefty behind first. The rocks and the sediments the rocks were formed from are limestone, made principally from the carbonate of lime and shelled animals such as sea shells; sandstone, formed of sand grains which became cemented together; shales, formed chiefly from silts and clays; and coal, formed from great masses of plants which grew in vast marine or salt water swamps. Geologists tell us that it generally took about 20 feet of decaying vegetation to form just one foot of coal. Much of our knowledge of life that existed in ages past has come from fossilized plants and animals. Some of the fossils exposed during the excavation of this area are on display at the project office.

Project Purpose and Facts

The Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed, built, and operates the project. The project serves as one unit of the comprehensive plan for the Ohio River Basin to reduce the flood stages downstream from the dam. The lake provides water supply storage and operates to increase natural low-flow conditions downstream of the dam in the interest of water quality control. Also, the lake offers boating, fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities to the general public.

During the fall and winter months, the lake is kept at a relatively low level referred to as winter pool. Should heavy rains occur, surface water runoff is stored in the lake until the swollen streams and rivers below the dam have receded and can handle the release of the stored water without damage to lives and property.

Dam Information
Dam Type: Earth and rock fill
Maximum Height: 130 feet
Length: 720 feet
Drainage area above dam: 58 square miles

Pool Elevation Area Length
(Feet mean sea level) (Acres) (Miles)
Winter 1,017               590        7
Summer 1,027             710       8.2
Total Storage 1,055 1,120 10.1

Thanks to JB Francis for additions and corrections for this family on various occasions and most recently on 29 Nov 2008.

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