Kentucky Facts

Introduction

Kentucky is located in the Southeast, bounded by the Ohio River in the north and the Appalachian Mountains in the east. Frankfort is the capital. Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby, a world-famous horse race held at Churchill Downs each May on the first Saturday. The race is preceded by a two-week annual festival commemorated at the Kentucky Derby Museum.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT KENTUCKY

  • Capital City: Frankfort
  • Largest City: Louisville
  • Nickname: The Bluegrass State
  • Statehood: 1792; 15th state
  • Population (as of 2020): 4,509,342
  • Abbreviation: KY
  • State bird: cardinal
  • State flower: goldenrod
  • Total Size Of The State: 40,408 sq mi (104,656 km2)

Historical Background

There is evidence that mammoths and other large animals migrated to Kentucky 14,000 years ago. In addition, the Cherokee, Shawnee, Chickasaw, and Yuchi tribes inhabited the land thousands of years later.

1774 marked the establishment of the first permanent white settlement. In the following years, James Harrod and Daniel Boone founded other settlements.

In 1792, the eastern part of Kentucky was declared its state after being part of Virginia for some time. In 1818, the Chickasaw tribe purchased the western part of Kentucky.

Kentucky was neutral during the Civil War in 1861. However, 140,000 of its citizens fought in the conflict.

Why Does It Have That Name?

It is unclear which Native American language gave Kentucky its name. However, the term is believed to have originated from the Wyandot word for the area, Kah-ten-tah-teh, which means “Land of Tomorrow.”

It’s also possible it originated from the Shawnee name for the area, Kain-tuck-ee, meaning “At the Head of the River.” Or it could have come from the Iroquoian or Mohawk word Kentucke, meaning “among the meadows.”

Geographic Features and Landforms

The Ohio River creates a wiggly border between Kentucky and Indiana in the north. East of Kentucky is West Virginia (separated from Kentucky by the Big Sandy River), south is Tennessee, and west is Missouri and Illinois.

Kentucky is divided into six geographic regions. The Mountain Region is the furthest east in the Appalachian Mountains chain. There are forests, high ridges, narrow, V-shaped valleys, and Big Black Mountain, the state’s highest point. A coalfield also exists under this area – the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field consists of 10,500 square miles of coal.

You can see hundreds of knob-shaped hills called monadnocks in the horseshoe-shaped Knobs region west of Charlotte. A portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest lies here.

There is a region called the Bluegrass in the middle of the Knobs, named after the bluish-green grass that grows there. The local limestone weathered or broke down, creating the area’s hills, sinkholes, caves, and springs.

Named after a type of mint plant that grows in it, Pennyroyal (also spelled Pennyrile) is a part of the Pennyroyal region. It is a rocky area with many trees, lakes, and caves across the state’s centre. Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest cave, stretching over 350 miles!

Located adjacent to the Pennyroyal, the Western Coalfield Region is a hilly region with 4,680 square miles of coal. John James Audubon State Park is named after this region’s famous artist and naturalist.

Jackson Purchase, a land area in the far west that became part of Kentucky in 1818, is a lowland filled with lakes, ponds, and swamps.

The Natural World

Kentucky is home to black bears, bobcats, red foxes, minks, and river otters. Looking at the sky, you may see a peregrine falcon, bald eagle, mountain bluebird, Kentucky warbler, or northern cardinal (the state bird). Look for snakes like the eastern corn snake, broadhead skink, and six-lined racerunner on the ground and in trees. Various amphibians live near water, including the Kentucky spring salamander and the Jefferson salamander.

Its state tree, the tulip poplar, is native to the eastern United States, as is the Kentucky coffeetree. There are also native trees such as red maples, sassafras, red oaks, and bald cypresses. In addition, wildflowers such as wild columbine, purple coneflower, dwarf iris, and Kentucky lady’s slipper, an endangered orchid, can be found in the area.

Natural Resources

Kentucky is one of the top three hardwood producers in the country because about half the state is covered in forests. Additionally, the state’s vast coalfields make it the third-largest coal producer in the U.S. Another essential resource is limestone.

Some Fun Facts About Kentucky

  • Kentucky has produced many famous people, including President Abraham Lincoln, Mildred and Patty Hill, who wrote “Happy Birthday to You,” and Muhammad Ali.
  • It is possible to visit the Louisville Slugger museum and factory, where the first of its now-famous baseball bats were manufactured in the 1880s. 
  • There is a 120-foot-tall steel bat outside, making it impossible to miss!
  • Fort Knox is home to the United States Bullion Depository. It is an underground vault containing one of the world’s largest gold reserves, estimated at 260 billion dollars.
  • A stretch of highway in Eastern Kentucky was renamed the “Country Music Highway.”

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