Transient Lakes


    From Bowling Green, exit Interstate 65 at exit 20 onto the Natcher Parkway.  Follow the Parkway to exit 4 and turn south on US 31W towards Franklin.  There are 2 transient lakes, Chaney Lake and McElroy Lake.  Both lakes are transient and are formed by overflow from the carst topography of the region.  In some years, they do not form.  In other years, they form in mid-winter and may persist into the summer.  Usually, they are at peak size in early  to mid-spring.  When full, they harbor numerous waterfowl of a great many species.  Upon their retreat, they may host many shorebirds or waders.  Many unusual records have occurred her including White Ibis, Tufted Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Curlew Sandpiper, and others.

    To reach Chaney Lake from the front, follow 31W past KY 242 and watch for water on the right. If the lake is large, it will be clearly visible.  Simply park on the shoulder and scan from the shoulder for waterfowl or shorebirds.  You may also walk from here to the back if the water is low.   While there is a state easement to a Nature Preserve along the fencerow, most birders locate the agricultural waterway in the center of the area and follow it back to the back side of the lake.  Be prepared for weeds, shallow water, and mud.  Do not walk on planted fields.

    To reach the back by car, turn right on Wren Road, just after passing KY 242 as before.  When the road branches, bear left.  Follow until you reach an elbow turn to the right, with a dirt lane to the left.  The dirt lane is private, but birders have been allowed to drive it to the lake.  As you drive down the dirt lane, you can see Chaney Lake on the left.  Again, do not walk on planted fields.

    To reach McElroy lake, return to US 31W and continue south to Woodburn.  There you should take a left on KY 240 and while in Woodburn, turn left onto KY 884.  Follow KY 884 for a good distance.  You will cross a rail road, and several new houses on the right.  Eventually, you will come to a culvert in the road and will be able to see McElroy Lake on the right (occasionally, it is on both sides of the road here).  Park here and walk along the edge of the lake, again staying off of planted crops.  It is possible to circle the lake by walking.  Usually, this is not necessary.  There is sometimes another access on Meng Road on the other side of the lake.  To reach this point, continue on KY 884 to KY 242.  Turn right and follow to a right turn onto the Meng Road.  From this point, bear right at every opportunity to turn.  Eventually, you will see water on the right, a clump of trees in a field, and a utility pole at a shape turn in the road.  Birders often park here and walk across unplanted fields to access McElroy Lake from the other side. Continue on Meng Road towards Woodlawn.  Occasionally, Upland Sandpipers and Brewer's Blackbirds are seen along the road between this access point and Woodburn on pastures of the former Meng Farm.

    When formed, the transient lakes are one of the premier birding locations in Kentucky, attracting birders from all over Kentucky, Tennessee and other states.  Waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds that appear at different stages of formation, then disappear at different seasons, make these lakes a unique birding location.

                                                                                                                                                            -- Mark Bennett