Recreation at the Land Between the Lakes certainly isn’t what it would be without shutdowns to buck the spread of COVID-19, but it is getting better.
The latest loosening of the knot is the reopening of the LBL’s popular Turkey Bay Off-Highway Vehicle Area on Wednesday of this week. The area’s trails are open to day use by off-road vehicle riders.
At present the Turkey Bay OHV Area campground remains closed as do the federal recreation area’s major developed campgrounds, including Hillman Ferry, Energy Lake and Piney campgrounds. The LBL’s U.S. Forest Service managers yet have not publicly announced when these high-use sites will reopen to visitors.
A week ago, the LBL reopened basic camping areas and self-service campgrounds to public use. The self-service campgrounds, including the Kentucky sector’s Nickell Branch, Birmingham Ferry, Craven’s Bay, Smith Bay, Sugar Bay, Taylor Bay and Fenton, began charging fees for self-service campers on May 15.
Dispersed camping outside of formal campgrounds was never halted by viral-driven restrictions in the LBL.
Also open at present are the Moss Creek Day-Use Area on the Kentucky Lake shore, the popular Hematite Lake with its trail and picnic area, the Center Furnace Trail and the Golden Pond Target Range.
Other much-visited LBL facilities including the Woodland Nature Station, the Golden Pond Visitor Center and Planetarium, and The Homeplace-1850 remain closed to thwart the spread of coronavirus with possible significant social mixing at these sites.
Possibly the most visited attraction at the LBL is the drive-through Elk & Bison Prairie near Golden Pond. This also remains closed for now, but that is not attributed to the coronavirus restrictions. LBL spokesmen say the looping roadway in the wildlife viewing area is under reconstruction, with culvert replacement at one or more road-creek junctures.
The popular elk and buffalo encounter area will reopen as soon as the road work is completed, it is reported.
Most trails are open to use. One exception is the Hillman Heritage Trail. A hurdle there is that the trailhead to these walking and biking routes lies inside the boundaries of Hillman Ferry Campground, which itself remains closed.
• Kentucky’s spring squirrel hunting season continues statewide. The bonus small game hunting opportunities started Saturday of last week (May 16) and runs through June 19.
Regulations for spring squirrel hunting, including a daily limit of six squirrels, are the same as for the familiar “fall” squirrel season that actually begins on the third Saturday of August and runs through the end of February.
The five-week spring season takes advantage of a peak in the squirrel population that comes from young bushytails that are the result of the winter breeding period growing and taking to the forests and woodlots as independent critters.
Spring squirrel hunting is another activity open at present in the Land Between the Lakes. Hunters may participate in the Kentucky section of the federal area in accord with the May 16-June 19 dates.
Tennessee spring squirrel hunters got an earlier start with a May 9-June 7 season. They can hunt the LBL’s Tennessee portion during that state’s season.
All hunters in the LBL must have appropriate state hunting license as well as an LBL Hunter Use Permit.
• U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials with the federal agency’s Nashville District say corps-managed campgrounds in the Cumberland River drainage will reopen in June.
These corps campgrounds in the Tennessee sector of the Cumberland River corridor will reopen June. 1. Those in Kentucky will not reopen until June 11 in accord with the reopening scheduled announced by Gov. Andy Beshear.
Those Kentucky campgrounds closed in recent weeks because of recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19 include popular area facilities on Lake Barkley.
While the campgrounds will reopen, all facilities won’t be available initially, corps spokesmen say. For example, group shelters and swimming areas won’t be accessible upon reopening.
• Another hunting season of sorts that continues in Kentucky is that for bullfrogs. This one began on May 15 and is here for the long haul. It runs through Oct. 31.
Unchanged from past seasons, there is a limit of 15 bullfrogs per “day,” calculated from noon until noon. In practical terms, a day of bullfrog hunting is a night, most frogging taking place during hours of darkness. The possession limit after two or more days/nights of hunting is 30.
Froggers use a variety of methods to take the amphibians in and around Kentucky wetlands, ponds, lakes and streams. The tactics and gear used determine the license required to make it legal.
Those who hunt frogs with a gun or archery equipment should have a valid hunting license. If someone uses an old method of pole and line to tempt bullfrogs to strike at lures or bait, a fishing license is required.
Many frog seekers use gigs, and some eschew equipment and simply sneak close and grab bullfrogs by hand. Those gigging or grabbing frogs can be legal with either a hunting or fishing license, according to Kentucky regulations.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 270-575-8650.