I read the glowing reviews for Lake Barkley but didn't notice that nearly every review was written by a traveler visiting in summer. We recently had some very nice weather (around 60 degrees) in February, so we decided to give the park a try. It was a big mistake.
The lodge and the park itself are basically closed for most of the winter season, despite the great local weather. A small note on the park website warns that the lodge is closed Sunday through Wednesday for the winter, so I called the park in advance to see if any services would be available before we drove out there. The park employee answering the phone seemed perplexed by the online closure message. I was assured that only the restaurant was closed and the park grounds and all other facilities would be open for our use. The restaurant closure didn't seem to present a problem since we only wanted to hike the outdoor trails, view the lake, and use the indoor pool and hot tub, which I was assured would be open.
When we arrived, we walked into the office and were completely ignored by staff, despite the fact that we seemed to be literally the only two guests on the property and three or four employees were standing around. I finally approached the information desk and asked a man in uniform about the available hiking trails. He informed me he was assigned to "another park" and didn't know anything about the park in which he was working. I then asked another staff member about hiking trails. He informed me that trails began at "various places", but when I asked for clarification on specific trails he could never provide coherent information. It became clear that he did not know how to access the hiking trails, and was trying to find the information on a printed map. As it turns out, most of the hiking trails begin in areas that are closed to the public behind locked gates, totally off limits and unusable to visitors.
With hiking ruled out, we proceeded to the fitness center to check out the indoor pool and hot tub which I had been assured would be open. We found the hot tub closed, and later found out that it had been broken at least since the previous week, with no repair in sight. When we asked to see the pool, a staff member guided us to a pool completely enclosed in a large glass room. Upon entering the pool area, we found the area so uncomfortably hot that we simply could not stay inside. I was surprised to see an outdoor thermometer mounted on the wall which displayed a temperature of nearly 130 degrees! No one was swimming in the pool, and it remains a mystery to me why someone couldn't open a door and cool the area down to a reasonable temperature. Staff members seemed bored and uncaring, with employees standing outside smoking and talking on their cell phones for long periods of time.
In the end, we found absolutely nothing to do at the lodge or the park in general. A quick drive to nearby Kenlake State Park revealed a note on the door informing guests to ring the bell if the door was locked.
We understand that parks may limit services during winter months. What we cannot understand is the fact that every single Kentucky State Parks staff member we talked to either gave us incorrect park information, or was unable to provide any information at all. Perhaps Lake Barkley Lodge is a worthwhile destination in summer. I have no way to judge. In winter, the lodge appears to serve as a retirement community for state employees whose level of professionalism and competence is reminiscent of local fast food outlets. Despite making more than one call in advance to get information, this trip was a complete waste of our time and money. We will not be frequenting Kentucky State Parks again.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Lake Barkley State Resort Park has accommodations for every kind of travelers, including the comfortable Barkley Lodge and a large camping site. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Lake Barkley Hotel Cadiz
- Barkley Lodge
- Barkley Hotel Cadiz