2023 Fall Adventure – Land Between The Lakes

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During the past few years, The Ranger Station has held its fall gathering at the Badlands Offroad Park in Attica, Indiana. For 2023 we decided to change things up and host a ‘Fall Adventure’ at the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky from Thursday September 7th through Sunday September 10th.

The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area was created in 1963 and manages over 170,000 acres of forests, wetlands, and open lands on a peninsula between Kentucky and Barkley lakes in Western Kentucky and Tennessee.

Prizer Point KOA campground would be the designated campground and meeting area for this event.

In the past the group would get up in the morning and we would all head in to an offroad park together. This year was much different. This year people could break off into groups or head out individually to see and do a variety of things. Some of those things included:

  1. Find things on the TRS Scavenger Hunt list
  2. Visit the Bison and Elk Prairie
  3. Visit an 1850s Working Farm
  4. Take a tour of the Casey Jones Distillery
  5. Visit old homesteads and landmarks including a restored church and ‘Hotel California’
  6. Visit Civil War Fort Donelson
  7. Go to Turkey Bay OHV area for hardcore off-roading
  8. Explore the forest roads through the park
  9. Kayak in the lakes

Scavenger Hunt:

As listed above, this year we had a Scavenger Hunt that was well thought out by TRS Staff Member ‘ericbphoto’. Eric gave everyone a list that included (24) things people could find along with ways to get bonus points. The group had all day Friday and Saturday to find them. The winner with the most points was forum member ‘Bubba Bonanza’ (right). He’s shown below receiving his award and a receiver hitch recovery shackle from Eric (left).


Friday morning we split up into groups. Some of the members went to the Casey Jones Distillery for a tour and tasting.

Others went and explored the 1850’s working farm and the Bison and Elk Prairie.

(Forum Staff Member 85_Ranger4x4 watches a blacksmith with his son Oliver)

This area has a lot of civil war history. Fort Donelson was a fortress built early in 1862 by the Confederacy during the American Civil War to control the Cumberland River, which led to the heart of Tennessee, and thereby the Confederacy. The fort was named after Confederate general Daniel S. Donelson.

The Union Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant, who later became president, captured the fort in February 1862 from the Confederate Army in the Battle of Fort Donelson. This was a great strategic victory for the Union forces, and part of Grant’s campaign to gain control of the Mississippi River. Union forces occupied the fort (and much of Tennessee) for the remainder of the war.

Later in the afternoon we headed out and explored the surrounding forest roads.

Friday Night – Pizza Night:

It has become somewhat of a tradition that we make campfire pizzas at our events. Forum Staff Member ‘Uncle Gump’ supplies the pizza crusts and toppings, and Forum Staff Member ‘ericbphoto’ brings the dome and components needed to cook them.

This is quite possibly the best pizza you’ll ever have. It’s worth coming out to these gatherings just to hang out around the campfire and eat pizza.

‘Uncle Gump’ brings toppings to make about any kind of pizza you want. The pizzas are laid out on a table like a buffet.

(ericbphoto checking the temperature on the pizza dome)

There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire at night with your friends.


Saturday morning, Forum member ‘Mrs. Eighty Five’ and Forum Staff Member ’85_Ranger4x4′ cooked up some fresh biscuits in a camp oven along with a big pot of sausage gravy for everyone. Yes, we eat good at these gatherings. Nothing like starting the day with a delicious hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy!!

With a full stomach, we set out to explore another day at the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area.

A little history….

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of his New Deal. Specifically, the Authority was to construct a series of dams for both flood control and generation of electricity throughout the rural Tennessee Valley. The project would provide much needed jobs in the area, as well as provide electricity to a large area that lacked it. With the US entry into World War II, the project was also needed to satisfy electrical demand from the aluminum industry for the war effort. The site of the last dam downstream on the Tennessee River was to be Gilbertsville, Kentucky. The resulting impoundment, completed in the early 1940s, resulted in Kentucky Lake.

Dams raised the water levels, creating lakes where there were once rivers. Because the project would result in flooding of some of the low-lying land on the western side of the area, the TVA exercised eminent domain, condemning some of the properties and forcing the removal of approximately 800 families from their homes. As a result, entire towns, including Birmingham, Kentucky, were flooded and are now underwater.

Some residents were outraged about these actions, while others were happy to sell their land and start a new life in a less remote area.

The plan called for a new dam and the evacuation of residents from the entire former “Between the Rivers” area, not all of which was to be flooded. The area was to be developed as the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, to produce a multiple-use approach to recreational lands.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers constructed a dam on the Cumberland, producing another lake. It was planned to be at the same elevation as Kentucky Lake, and the two rivers were to be connected by a canal that did not require locks.

The dam on the Cumberland, resulting in Lake Barkley, and a canal were completed in the 1960s. The lake was named after Alben W. Barkley, a Kentucky politician who had served as Vice President under President Harry S. Truman.

The area was designated as a national recreation area in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.

Here we are checking out ‘Hotel California’. This building was a home back before the federal government took over this land and turned it into a national recreation area. It’s an interesting structure made of concrete block with a concrete slab between the first and second floor, and a concrete slab for the roof. This house was built to last. Especially when you consider that this area became a national recreation area in 1963.

The lake was just down the hill from Hotel California, and we determined that the house probably had a clear view of it back in its day. The group also checked out a cemetery nearby.

From there we headed over to St. Stephen Catholic Church. This church was built in 1900 with its last service being held in 1945. The building was overlooked when the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area was formed in 1963. The church was restored by volunteers in 2000.

While exploring this location we decided it was a good time and place to take a lunch break.

Not everyone checked out these sites with the group. ‘bobbywalter’, ‘Mattman347’, and ‘Bubba Bonanza’ decided to head over to the Turkey Bay OHV area and do some actual off-roading.

At the end of the day Jim Oaks and Robert Mangrum found a forest road that had not been maintained in a very long time. The road consisted of deep ruts, mud holes, washouts, water crossings, tight passages through trees, tall grassy fields, and the edge of a corn field. It took them an hour to travel 1.7 miles on this ‘road’.

Saturday Night – Homemade Ice Cream & Peach Cobbler:

Saturday ‘ericbphoto’ brought out his ice cream maker and made a bunch of ice cream for everyone, and ’85_Ranger4x4′ and ‘Mrs. Eighty Five’ made a homemade peach cobbler to go with it. The peach cobbler went so fast we couldn’t even get a picture of it!!

One of the great things about these gatherings is the evening campfire. It’s a great time socializing with people that you normally only see online, or only get to see once a year.


Sunday morning everyone started packing up to head home. Every year we like to get a photo of all the vehicles together as well. Will yours be in next years photo?

Next Years Event:

We will expand on this Fall Adventure at Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area in 2024. As you can see, you don’t need to have a 4-Wheel_drive or off-road vehicle to enjoy this weekend with us. There’s something for everyone. Hopefully we will see you at next year’s event.

Want To See More:

Check out the link below to view the forum discussion about this event. There you will be able to see even more photos and stories about the weekend.

TRS 2023 Fall Adventure – Land Between The Lakes

Event Videos:


More Photos:

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As a Ford Ranger enthusiast who enjoys modifying my Ford Rangers for off-road use, I quickly discovered that there wasn’t any websites dedicated to the subject. So in 1999, I created TheRangerStation.com. What started as my own personal desire to help other Ford Ranger owners, has grown into a wealth of online information from numerous contributors. 20-years later, my commitment to the Ford Ranger, and the Ford Ranger community, is as strong as ever.

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