While the Kentucky Dam Visitor’s Center occasionally welcomes visitors from other countries such as England and Canada, many of the dam’s visitors are local and come across the center while exploring the area and the many outdoor recreation areas created by the dam and TVA.
TVA retiree Ralph Rose, who worked at the Kentucky Dam for 19 years, and his wife Linda are Bicentennial Volunteers, Inc. (BVI) volunteers who work at the Visitor’s Center. Since 2013, the Roses have logged over 4,500 volunteer hours working at both Kentucky and Fontana Dams. Having spent the majority of his career at Kentucky Dam and living just down the road, the Roses feel a certain fondness for Kentucky.
Working as an electrician at the dam, Ralph got to know a lot of people associated with the dam, including volunteers Jane and Dean Farrells.
“Jane and Dean were from Knoxville, and they spent a lot of time working in the Visitor’s Center before I retired. I got to know them, and I saw how they gave their time to help others learn about TVA, and I wanted to do that too,” Ralph said. “They enjoyed it, and I enjoy it. It is an interesting old place.”
Kentucky Dam is the longest dam in the TVA system. The reservoir stretches 184 miles across Kentucky and Tennessee, and so far this season, Kentucky Dam, open from April through October, has welcomed over 25,000 visitors.
“Most of our visitors are from the area, but the ones from other countries are interested in the dam and the lake and how they were built. We get engineers from time to time who have lots of questions,” Ralph said.
“I enjoy talking to the different people from different areas. They all have their own stories to tell, and I like listening to them. I also like telling them about TVA and how it has been good for Kentucky,” Linda said.
According to Ralph, many locals don’t know the Visitor’s Center is there because it is incorporated into the powerhouse.
“Linda and I eat at McDonald’s frequently, and we are always telling people about the center, where it is and to come by and visit. It is important for people to come and learn about the area that they live in,” Ralph said.
Once just rolling hills and valleys, Grand Rivers, Kentucky grew tremendously thanks to TVA and the Kentucky Dam, Lake and recreation area.
“I remember when this town was nothing. I grew up just a few miles from here, and I have lived here my whole life,” Linda said. “This town really benefitted from the tourism brought to the area because of TVA and the dam.”
“The dam is a big thing around here. When the local news comes on, the first thing they show is a picture of the dam,” Ralph said. “I was 14 when we moved here, and there wasn’t anything here. TVA caught this area up with the rest of the country.”
Kentucky Lake is the largest man-made lake in the United States, and it draws many visitors due to the outdoor recreation opportunities.
“It provides boat docks, places to swim, beaches, fishing spots and more. Back in the 50s, the area became a big tourist attraction because of the recreation opportunities created by TVA, and it was a big boost for the economy in Marshall County,” Ralph said. “You could hardly get around during the summertime it was so busy.”
Another attraction associated with the Kentucky Dam area is Land Between the Lakes which was originally developed by TVA.
“LBL draws a lot of visitors to this area because there are no commercial businesses there, so it is a popular area offering a nature center, planetarium, bicycle trails and a big elk and bison range for people to see,” Ralph said. “It spans from Kentucky Dam to Dover, Tenn. and there is a lot of stuff to see in LBL. It and the dam make this a destination worth visiting.”