Carr Creek State Park is a state park located in Lincoln County, Kentucky. The park consists of 1,068 acres (430ha) situated along the north bank of Carrick Creek, an impoundment on the Ohio River created by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lock No. 13. It was dedicated as a state park in 1975.
There are also two golf courses, cabins, lodges, and 96-room lodge complex. A visitor center features interactive exhibits and a video presentation. The park has such amenities as beaches, boat ramps, boardwalks, birding areas, bicycling paths, campgrounds, canoe rentals, disc golf, equestrian trails, picnic shelters, playgrounds, swimming pools, zip lining, and nature trail. The park’s marina contains a mixture of uses including seasonal store/marina, overnight mooring facilities, and charter boats.
The park grounds feature several historic buildings including the 1910 Saltmaster Office building, which now houses the visitor center; the 1911 Salt Mining Equipment Building, which now hosts the maintenance shop and park headquarters; and the restored Kimbell Hall, which serves as both a conference room and event venue.
Other buildings include the Woodlands Nature Center, which provides hands-on learning experiences for children and adults; the Arthur V. Watkins Conference Room & Study Center, named after a noted 20th-century environmental journalist whose work helped raise awareness of conservation issues in Appalachia; and the Tom Loftin Johnson Environmental Education Center, designed to provide classroom space for use by visiting students and regional ecology programs. Located within the park office, this multi-purpose facility includes three separate study rooms that can be reserved for group functions and eight individual workstations.
Two outdoor terraces overlooking the creek offer views of both forested hillsides and the lower levels of the dam itself. On May 25, 2010, the Friends of Carrick Creek State Park hosted their first ever “Hawk Watch” where viewers could observe all 16 species of raptors that migrate on the East Coast from the park’s observation deck. During the 2016 season, NBC Sports Boston reported that nearly 500,000 people visited the park each month. In 2019, Forbes ranked the park as the fifth most popular tourist attraction in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The park receives nearly 640,000 visitors annually.
Hiking trails range from easy to moderate in difficulty and total approximately 90 miles (140km). Campsites range from modern with water and electric hookups to rustic tent sites. There are 12 primitive campsites designated for hikers or bikers only. Backcountry camping is not permitted but there are six backpacking sites. Cabins are equipped with heating, air conditioning, bathhouses, and kitchenware. The Lodge is open year round with 180 guest rooms and suites. Half of the rooms have fireplaces. Some have scenic overlooks and all have access to a large common area with fireplace, wet bar and balcony.
Outside of the hotel are ten different cottages and yurts. Each cottage comes fully furnished and has central HVAC, ceiling fans, and screened back porch. The yurt has a full size bed, futon sofa, countertop, table, chairs, electric heat, lights, and window screens. Boat dock available mid-May through mid-September. Picnic tables and charcoal grills are provided. Modern pit toilets are accessible outside of the campground throughout the entire park year round. Overnight accommodations are offered in the 120-bed lodge and 30-person yurt.
Visitors needing transport to and from the airport may utilize the park’s carpool shuttle service which runs daily except Sunday and holidays. An alternate transportation option is available via private vehicle if you pre-register your vehicle with the park reservation system. Parking fees are in effect during parts of the fall and winter months. The park closes entirely November through mid-March due to weather conditions. When closed, admission is $5 per person per night.
In the early 19th century, Carrick Creek was one of the main sources for salt used to preserve meat for the Appalachian settlers who were moving into the area. Salt mining began operations at nearby Big Sandy Salt Works as early as 1875. At its peak, the works employed some 200 workers and processed over 100 tons of salt per day.
By 1912, however, the facility had fallen on hard times and lay abandoned until 1963 when it was purchased by Jack Kent, Sr., the father of Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis. With financial support from his family, he set about restoring the property and making it available for public recreation. He died in 1969, leaving the future of the park in doubt. However, with strong advocacy from local citizens, including former Miss America Terry McMillen, the park was authorized by the legislature the following year. It became officially opened to the public in July 1970.
- mountain biking
- horseback riding
Viewers saw more than 400 birds during four hours including :
- golden eagles
- red-tailed hawks
- owls like screech owls
- bald eagles