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Lake Cumberland's 76 Falls
The main reason to go!
One of my favorite childhood memories was the yearly summer vacation our family took to Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. My dad had taught us all to waterski at an early age and we all loved to go boating. We would hook up our large speedboat to our station wagon, load up and embark on a 4.5 hour trip to the park. Our home was in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and the speed limit back then was 55 mph everywhere. Pulling a large boat and 6 of us, at least in the car, we would struggle to stay near that speed. It could probably be done in 3 hours now with no extra weight.
Lake Cumberland would host 2 vacations per year in our family. One with us kids and one with my parents and their friends. The game plan once we got there was pretty much the same. Life for the week would be spend on a houseboat, that we would rent. Our speedboat would be tied to the rear of it and off we would go travelling down the lake. The dock in which we would leave from was usually one of two different ones, Jamestown State Dock or Conley Bottom Resort Dock. There was only 3 things on our agenda for the week. Swim, ski and 76 Falls.
76 falls was our ultimate destination and you couldn't ever spend time at Lake Cumberland without visiting it, at least I don't know anyone that has? The only thing that I disliked was the infinite amount of time it took to get there. Traveling by houseboat at about 10-15 mph, approximately, it would take us a few days to reach it. Ironically the docks that we would start from were the farthest from there. Grider Hill Dock was the closest and we never ever left from there and not sure why?
A little Falls history
It has been speculated by historians that the falls were named after the small settlement named "seventy six" that was established near there. The town had a sawmill, blacksmith shop, a cabinet shop and a factory for milling wool and cotton. The falls originally were 83 feet high before the formation of Lake Cumberland in 1950. They now stand at roughly 44 feet. The area above the falls where Indian creek flows has become a favorite spot for family picnics and gazing over the edge into the lake below.
The Indian Creek or "Mystery Creek" name comes from the fact that one mile from its origin it overcomes a natural obstacle in a unique and mysterious way. A north-south running ridge seemingly blocks the creek's lakeward path. The creek flows under the ridge and surfaces on the other side, where its size is increased by eight springs. From there, the creek is turned into rapids by the steep incline about 200 yards before it falls into Lake Cumberland. Its length and average 20-foot width make it one of the largest creeks in Kentucky.
Today there is very little left of the town of Seventy-Six. The last remaining building, the Semple Mill, burned in 1943. The devastating tornado of 1974 destroyed many of the old trees that served as markers, and most of the park itself. Since then the park has been rebuilt and waits for you to stop and enjoy a brief visit with the past.
The most popular sight to see & party at!
It was always exciting to make that final turn around a bend and catch a glimpse of the falls off in the distance. You could faintly hear the water cascading over the ledge. The closer we would could get the better, but sometimes a challenge because everyone else had the same idea. There was a lot of other houseboats anchored or tied along the shoreline near the falls, but we usually got a nice spot. Now the fun began. Armed with our life jackets, off we went into the lake and swam for the falls, with the goal of swimming under the pounding water and reaching the back wall behind. This was always scary and exciting at the same time. You couldn't drown, with the lifejacket on and the force wasn't that strong, but we still swam under as fast as we could, like we were being chased by a shark. Going back through, never seemed as hard?
As a child or teenager, this was the ultimate fun at the falls. For the adults, especially the guys, it was something totally different, a lot more dangerous and pretty stupid. They would climb the side of the steep ledge, which was a feat in itself, reach the top, walk over the the falls, wave or yell down at their "gang" and then proceed to jump or dive off the top. My dad, even did this once and he told me he was scared to death once he got to the top, but it was more scary to attempt to climb back down again. A lot of injuries were sustained trying to make the jump vs actually jumping. Even today, some 40 yrs later from the time I'm describing, there are YouTube videos galore of people still jumping.
It just felt so relaxing sitting on the houseboat, especially at night, when all of the partying had died down and just listen to the sound of the falls. After a day or two here, it would be time to make the long trip back to our starting point. We did stop every few hours and swim and ski so it wasn't really that bad. I would love to visit the park above the falls someday and to get a glimpse over the edge, instead of all of the years of looking up. That would be neat to me. Apparently there are white crosses along the top now of unlucky people who have died jumping or trying to jump. Never saw that fascination, but I am afraid of heights so I guess I'm not the person to ask? If you're ever on the lake or near there, make a point to check out 76 Falls
Keep in mind that the past few years with the droughts and some work being done on Beaver Creek Dam, that the falls are only viewable by land and not boat. The water has receded so much that much of the cove is above water now and the falls are higher than the usual 44 feet as well.