The Cumberland River watershed covers more than 18,000 square miles thru portions of southeast Kentucky, north central Tennessee and western Kentucky. The main stem of the river begins near Harlan, Kentucky and stretches for 697 miles before spilling into the Ohio River near Smithland, Kentucky. Along this route it impounded 5 times to form Lake Cumberland, Cordell Hull Lake, Old Hickory Lake, Cheatham Lake and Lake Barkley.


The Upper Cumberland River watershed is the portion of this watershed located primarily in southeast Kentucky. About 300 miles of the main stem of the Cumberland River drain the watershed including about 110 miles of Lake Cumberland. That is just the 'backbone' of the watershed. There are more than 10,000 miles of streams and creeks. Some of the major streams that feed into the Cumberland River or Lake Cumberland include: Big South Fork, Rockcastle, Buck Creek, Clear Fork, Laurel River and many more. Each of these streams are fed by countless creeks.  The see a downloadable map of the Upper Cumberland – click here



Threats to water quality...


There are numerous sources of pollution that threaten water quality in the watershed.    

  • Human and Animal Waste


  • Historical and Active Mining


  • Agriculture


  • Logging


  • Permitted Discharges


Click on the links to see how UCWW tests to discover the impacts of these threats.

Additional water quality information collected by state and federal resource agencies can be found at KY Division of Water.


Special Water Resources


The Upper Cumberland watershed is home to numerous unique water resources.  These include:

  • Five Kentucky Wild Rivers


  • An Outstanding National Resource Water


  • Numerous threatened and endangered aquatic species.  Info about these species can be found at US Fish and Wildlife.

For a detailed listing of these unique waters go to KY Division of Water's Special Use Water site


Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 18:07
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