Located on the boundary of Marshall and Livingston counties, Kentucky Dam turns the Tennessee River into the largest body of water in Kentucky. Because of its immense size, birding the lake is difficult, at best. For this reason, most birders concentrate on the Dam area.
The key attraction of Kentucky Dam is the thousands of gulls that may appear in the winter if the gates are open. If the gates remain closed, then gulls are more sparse. Ring-billed, Herring and Bonaparte's Gull are routinely observed. In good winters, Thayer's, Iceland, Glaucous, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed and other gull species may occur. The less common gulls are usually in subadult plumage, most commonly first winter. Therefore, some knowledge of gull plumages is essential.
Waterfowl may also be observed from the dam, but Lake Barkley is actually better for most species. Common Goldeneye, Horned Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe and Common Loon are the most often observed. However, rarities do occur. A Western Grebe was present most of the winter of 1999-2000, and the state's only Brown Pelican and Red-necked Grebe have also been observed recently.
The beach of the state park on the western shore above the dam has been a temporary stopover point for uncommon birds as well. A few recent stop overs include: Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, & Whimbrel.
In summer, an occasional Laughing Gull or possible Franklin's Gulls are the only attractions. During migration, anything is possible, but terns are nearly always present here or nearby.
Below the dam, the best viewing points are from the Power Station in the AM and the parking area on the west side of the river in the PM. Above the dam, observing from the locks in the AM can be productive and from a hill just south of the beach are on the western shore of the lake in the PM. There are 2 overlooks on the dam itself. Because you look south, they are good only in the AM or the PM, not at mid-day.
Occasionally, an industrial pond at Calvert City may hold a rare gull. California Gull, Glaucous Gull, and others have been observed here. To reach this location, follow KY 282 north/west on the west side of the dam to KY 95. Go right (north) on KY 95 and follow until it ends at an industrial complex. The road splits into a Y. Follow the left Y until you reach the Tennessee River. There is a gravel parking lot on the left and the industrial pond is adjacent to the parking area. You have to look through the chain link fence at the birds.
-- Mark Bennett