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Geography of Kentucky

by Vishul Malik

Kentucky is a US state bordered by seven states. Most of the state comprises narrow valleys and sharp mountain ranges. Giant hardwoods, scented pine and laurel, magnolia, rhododendron, and dogwood are found in abundance.

General Features

Kentucky, officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the east-central United States. It is bordered on the north by Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio; on the south by Tennessee; by West Virginia and Virginia on the east and Missouri borders Kentucky on the west. The geographic center of the state is in Marion County.

The state comprises five geographic regions :

  • Bluegrass Region : Lying in the northern central area of Kentucky, the Bluegrass Region is distinguished by rolling meadows and sandstone knobs. The area where these sandstone knobs are found is known as the Knobs Region.
  • Cumberland Plateau : Also referred to as the Appalachian Plateau, the Cumberland Plateau extends from New York to Alabama. This region consists of consists of numerous mountains, plateaus, and valleys. The Cumberland and Pine mountain and the highest point in the state, the Black Mountain, is found in this region.
  • Western Coal Field : The northwestern part of Kentucky is known as the Western Coal Field. The area is part of the Illinois Basin and consists of a number of hills. The region is bordered by the Ohio River on the north, and the Pennyroyal region on the east, west, and south. It is given the name because of its large coal deposits.
  • Pennyroyal Region: Also called Pennyrile, the Pennyroyal Region stretches along the southern border of Kentucky to Kentucky Lake. The central region of the Pennyroyal is a treeless area known as “The Barrens.” The southern portion comprises flat lands with rolling hills and the northern section is composed of rocky ridges that consists of underground caves and tunnels. Mammoth Cave is situated in the Pennyroyal region.
  • Jackson Purchase Region : The region in the far western tip of Kentucky that starts at the Gulf of Mexico and extends north to Illinois is called the Jackson Purchase Region. The region is bordered by Kentucky Lake on the east, Ohio River on the north and by the Mississippi River on the west. Flood plains with low hills characterize this region.


Geographical Facts About Kentucky

Area 40,411 square miles
Land Area 39,732 square miles
Water Area 679 square miles
Mean Elevation 230 meters
Highest Point Black Mountain (1,263 meters)
Lowest Point Kentucky Bend (78 meters)
Geographic Center Marion County


Climate of Kentucky

Kentucky has a moderate climate with warm summers and cool winters. The highest temperature recorded in Kentucky is 46°C ; it was registered on July 28, 1930 at Greensburg. The lowest temperature in the state was recorded -37°C, on January 19, 1994 at Shelbyville. The average precipitation in Kentucky is 1,200 mm annually. The state is prone to storms that occur throughout the year.

Mountains of Kentucky

There are 1,215 mountain peaks in Kentucky. Black Mountain is the highest mountain peak in the state with a summit elevation of 1,263 meters.

The other major mountain ranges in the state include:

  • Pine Mountain
  • Cumberland Mountain
  • Reynold Mountain
  • Jackson Knob
  • Ryans Creek Mountain
  • Beaver Knob
  • Canada Mountain
  • Collier Rocks

Rivers in Kentucky

Kentucky has numerous water bodies. In fact, it is the only state in the United States that is bordered on three sides by rivers: the Mississippi River on the west, the Big Sandy River and Tug Fork on the east and the Ohio River on the north.

The major rivers in the state include:

  • Kentucky River
  • Tennessee River
  • Green River
  • Cumberland River
  • Licking River
  • Clarks River
  • Barren River
  • Mud River

Lakes in Kentucky

There are three major lakes and a large number of artificial lakes in Kentucky. It has the largest artificial lake east of the Mississippi: the Cumberland Lake.

The major lakes in the state are:

  • Kentucky Lake
  • Lake Barkley
  • Wood Creek Lake
  • Yatesville Lake
  • Paintsville Lake
  • Green River Lake
  • Laurel River Lake

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