General Burnside State Park is a state park located in the Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky. The park consists of 1,068 acres (430ha) situated around Fern Creek Lake and is named after Edmund H. Genesee Burnside, a Union general during the American Civil War who was born in nearby Elizabethtown. It is one of two state parks located on Bald Mountain along Highway 111 in Laurel County. The other park is Daniel Boone National Forest Recreation Area.
Located within the park are several historic resources related to General Burnside and his actions while serving in the Confederate Army of East Tennessee. These include the Rock Island Rifle Company Memorial, Camp Lawton, and the Lincoln Monument. Visitors can walk through recreated Civil War battlefields where they may interact with “soldiers” in replica uniforms to learn about life in the camps, on patrol, and fighting on designated battle fields. The park features nine miles (14km) of rugged single-track mountain biking trails that range from easy to difficult, including sections featuring jumps, drops, rock gardens, roots, and more.
There are over 200 camping sites among the various tent and trailer campsites, some overlooking Fern Creek Lake and others accessible only via the Rock Island Trail. Group tenting accommodates up to 100 people, but no drinking water or restroom facilities are available. Half of the campsites are reserved, the remainder open on a first come, first served basis. The park includes three picnic shelters, each accommodating 50 people, plus additional picnic areas. Two of the picnic areas feature grills and all are equipped with electricity. Drinking water and restrooms facilities are available at both the Day Use Area and the Group Tenting Area.
The park offers six miles (9.7km) of hiking trails, five miles of equestrian trails, and seven miles of mountain bike trails. Horseback riding is not permitted on any trail leading into the Wilderness Area. No pets are allowed anywhere in the park. Hunting is limited to bowhunting. Archery-only deer hunting takes place during certain parts of the year. The park contains numerous streams and lakes, including Fern Creek Lake, which provides fishing opportunities for those under 16 years of age and older than 14 days prior to the hunt. Boats and canoes are rented to fish these waters throughout the year.
An Olympic-sized swimming pool is open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. Tennis courts and a basketball court are open to players throughout the year. The park has many different playground options, ranging from traditional slides to climbing walls to balance beams. Other amenities include cabins, campsites, nature center, picnicking facilities, roads, and bridges. Recreational vehicle (RV) sites are available during part of the year. All RVs must be self-contained with electric hookups. Water and sewer services are provided, but trash pick up is not. Outhouses are available at the group tenting area and the RV area. Toilets and showers are not. Campers needing personal care facilities are required to have proof of insurance before entering the park.
Canoe rentals begin at 8am and end at 5pm every day except Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Reservations are required. Canoes are available to rent all year long. Prices start at $20 per hour for 2 hours and go up depending on how much time you want to spend out on the lake. They do offer half price tickets if you purchase them online or at the reservation box office. There are 5 canoe rental stations around the perimeter of the park containing 10 canoes each. Additional canoes may be stored at the overflow lot for a fee. There is ample room for everyone to get wet and enjoy the scenery. Fishing licenses are not required but are strongly encouraged since the park is surrounded by Daniel Boone National Forest.
Approximately 250 ski/snowmobile runs are maintained inside the park. Over 300 picnic tables are scattered throughout the park, most in shaded locations. Most are easily accessible to electrical service and running water. Only unshaded tables are suitable for cooking. No dogs are allowed on the grounds. 40 primitive campsites are available. Each site has a fire ring and picnic table. No drinking water or garbage cans are present. Bathhouses and vault toilets are present at the Primitive Camping Area. Horses are welcome on the trails of the park. Riders must have current Negative Coggins papers for each horse brought onto the park grounds (per Kentucky law). Pony rides are not offered.
General Burnside State Park does host a number of events, mostly in conjunction with neighboring Daniel Boone National Forest Recreation Area. Both parks are open to archery deer hunts in season, as well as regular moose and squirrel hunts. Additionally, there are weekly hayrides departing from either park, weather permitting.
In May 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order creating the Tennessee Valley Authority to provide flood control, power generation and recreation for the Knoxville area. TVA soon became heavily involved with the development of what later became General Burnside State Park. TVA’s involvement ended with the completion of construction in 1944; however, TVA continued to operate the property until 1977, when it transferred ownership to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
With support from local citizens and organizations such as the Friends of General Burnside, KY 1308GB, also known as “The Big Red Road,” was completed through the forested mountainsides to the park in 1980. This road provides access to the park facilities and enables visitors to reach the site without using their four-wheel drive vehicles. Accessibility to the park has been enhanced by the installation of parking lots and trails, which have been added to the existing network of hiking and mountain bike routes in the surrounding Daniel Boone National Forest. A new campground opened at the park in 2016.
During the winter months,activities include:
- ice fishing
- Ice skating
- Cross-country skiing
Common game fish include: