Kentucky Ornithological Society

Birding Locations – Western Kentucky

This page focuses on birding locations in the western part of the state. You can explore the websites related to these spots for more information.

When visiting a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) or a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) please remember that hunting occurs in both. There are specific rules that birders should follow when visiting these areas, which are designed to keep them safe from hunting activities.

  • Ballard WMA – Located in Ballard County near Paducah, this area is closed part of the year for hunting. Before you visit, familiarize yourself with access dates and WMA rules, for this and any WMA you visit. Please follow all rules carefully, to ensure your visit is safe and legal.
  • Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge – Located in Marshall, McCracken and Graves counties, west of Kentucky Lake.
  • Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge – Located mostly in Tennessee, some parts of the refuge are in Fulton County Kentucky.
  • Jonathan Creek Embayment – Located in southern Marshall County, the embayment is part of the massive Kentucky Lake,.
  • Kentucky Dam – Located on the boundary of Marshall and Livingston counties. From I-24, take KY 453 and go 2 miles, then west for 1 mile on KY 62/641.
  • Kuttawa Heron Rookery & Roost – This is a dredge-created island in Lake Barkley, just southwest of the community of Kuttawa, which is near Eddyville. Beginning in about 1994, Black-crowned Night-Herons began nesting on the island, and Cattle Egrets and Little Blue Herons moved in a couple of years later. The heronry is a magnet for area waders, and some transient or wandering birds may join the local nesters to return to the island to roost every evening in late summer. For an hour or so before sunset to some time after sunset, large numbers of waders can be seen coming in to the roost during August & September. In the evening, the light is best from the north side along KY 295, about a mile and a half south of the junction with US 62, a mile or so west of the I-24 interchange. On 295, there is a sharp turn back to the east towards Kuttawa and a pulloff with an old gravel/paved lane that goes back to the lake. You can pull off there and watch the show from the old road or shoreline. Another spot where many of the birds might actually be closer is from the overlook area at the Old Kuttawa Recreation Area, just to the east.
  • Lake Barkley – From May through October, Lake Barkley eco-cruises (departing from Barkley Lodge, Lake Barkley State Resort Park) offer an excellent opportunity to travel Lake Barkley to view many interesting birds, such as nesting Ospreys (June - July). Other favorite locations include the powerline towers near Rock Castle, Kentucky, where ospreys nest and turkey and black vultures and double-crested cormorants routinely perch on powerline towers. Additional highlights include an annual osprey nesting survey for all of Lake Barkley in Kentucky during the second week of July. Viewing is often close (about 40 yds. for osprey nests) but far enough away to prevent disturbance to the birds. Great Egrets are observed in numbers near Linton, KY, during the osprey nesting survey. Additionally, other specialty birding trips can be arranged. For more information contact Ed Ray: 270-924-5831 or email:
  • Land Between the Lakes – Located in southwestern Kentucky between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. It is a National Recreation Area, that extends thought Kentucky into Tennessee.
  • Metropolis Lake State Nature Preserve – Dedicated Aug. 10, 1984, Metropolis Lake State Nature Preserve is a 123-acre tract in McCracken County. This preserve contains the 50-acre Metropolis Lake, one of only a few natural lakes in the Ohio River floodplain. From the junction of I-24 and US 60 in Paducah, drive west for 7 miles on US 60, then right on KY 996 for 5.9 miles. Turn right onto gravel road and drive past the gate to a parking area.
  • Open Pond (Fulton County) – Take highway 94 west out of Hickman, KY. Go about 8 miles to Sassafras Ridge (small green sign) and route 653. Make a right onto 653 and take the left fork. The road forks immediately after you make the right. Go 2.3 miles to dirt road on the right. This is Open Pond.
  • Peabody WMA – Located in Muhlenberg County, the Peabody Wildlife Management Area offers many birding opportunities. The Paradise Slag Pond is one of them and is located near the Paradise Steam Plant in the former town of Paradise, KY. This is part of the Peabody Wildlife Management area and a permit is required to enter. While there is no official check stand or entrance, entry without a permit can result in a significant fine. Use these directions to the Slag Pond to find it and enter the area safely.
  • Pennyrile State Forest – Located in Christian, Hopkins and Caldwell counties. To get there from the Western Kentucky Parkway take exit 24 (Dawson Springs) and follow Highway 109 South to Pennyrile State Park. Pennyrile State Park is located in the middle of the Pennyrile State Forest. Highway 109 also bisects portions of the forest.
  • Sloughs WMA – Located in Henderson County about 10 miles west of Henderson on KY 268. From Henderson, take US 60 west to KY 136, turn west, then go 2.8 miles to junction with KY 268. Go 4 miles northwest on KY 268.
  • Smithland and Smithland Dam – Located in Livingston County.