The Bluegrass State

Where is it?

State Flag




Geographic coordinates:
36°30'N to 39°9'N
81°58'W to 89°34'W
total: 40,411 sq mi
land: 39,732 sq mi
water: 679 sq mi
coastline: N/A
shoreline: N/A
Bordering States:
Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: 256 ft
highest point: Black Mountain 4,145 ft
Kentucky's northern border is formed by the Ohio River, and the western border is formed by the Mississippi River. Other major rivers in Kentucky include the Kentucky River, Tennessee River, the Cumberland River, the Green River, and the Licking River.

Kentucky is the only U.S. state to have non-contiguous parts exist as an enclave of other states. Far western Kentucky includes a small part of land, Kentucky Bend, on the Mississippi River bordered by Missouri and accessible via Tennessee, created by the New Madrid Earthquake. Also there is a section of Kentucky across the Ohio connected to Indiana near Evansville.

Kentucky has more navigable shoreline than any other state in the union, other than Alaska. This is thanks to Kentucky's intricate system of lakes and rivers, as well as being home to Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, and Lake Cumberland, all of which rank in the top 20 in size area of U.S. lakes.

Kentucky also has more farms per square mile than any other U.S. state. Despite being the 14th smallest state in terms of land area, Kentucky still ranks 5th in the total number of farms.

Rural Bluegrass sceneKentucky can be divided into five primary regions: the Cumberland Plateau in the east, the north-central Bluegrass region, the south-central and western Pennyroyal Plateau, the Western Coal Fields and the far-west Jackson Purchase.

The Bluegrass region is commonly divided into two regions, the Inner Bluegrass—the encircling 90 miles (145 km) around Lexington—and the Outer Bluegrass, the region that contains most of the Northern portion of the state, above the Knobs. Much of the outer Bluegrass is in the Eden Shale Hills area, made up of short, steep, and very narrow hills.

Kentucky has 120 counties, third in the U.S. behind Texas' 254 and Georgia's 159.




4,413,457 (2014)
Largest City:
Louisville: 756,832 (2010)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 6.4%
<18 years old: 23.6%
65 years and over: 12.5%
Male: 49.1% Female: 50.9%
Population growth rate:
3.2% (2000-2005)
Population density:
101.7 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 88.7%
Hispanic: 1.9%
Black: 7.5%
Asian: 0.9%
Native American: 0.2%
Multi-Race: 1.0%
Christian: No data
Other: No data
Non-Religious: No data




Although inhabited by Native Americans in prehistoric times, when explorers and settlers began entering Kentucky in the mid-1700s, there were no permanent Native American settlements in the region. Instead, the country was used as hunting grounds by Shawnees from the north and Cherokees from the south. Much of what is now Kentucky was purchased from Native Americans in the treaties of Fort Stanwix (1768) and Sycamore Shoals (1775). Thereafter, Kentucky grew rapidly as the first settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains were founded, with settlers (primarily from Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) entering the region via the Cumberland Gap and the Ohio River. The most famous of these early explorers and settlers was Daniel Boone, traditionally considered one of the founders of the state. Shawnees north of the Ohio River, however, were unhappy about the settlement of Kentucky, and allied themselves with the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Kentucky was a battleground during the war; the Battle of Blue Licks, one of the last major battles of the Revolution, was fought in Kentucky.

While remaining loyal to the Union, Kentucky was a border state during the American Civil War. The state did not secede, and was officially neutral until a new legislature took office on August 5, 1861 with strong Union sympathies. The majority of the Commonwealth's citizens also had strong Union sympathies. On September 4, 1861, Confederate General Leonidas Polk broke Kentucky's neutrality by invading Columbus, Kentucky. As a result of the Confederate invasion, Union General Ulysses S. Grant entered Paducah, Kentucky. On September 7, 1861, the Kentucky State Legislature, angered by the Confederate invasion, ordered the Union flag to be raised over the state capitol in Frankfort, declaring its allegiance with the Union. In November of 1861, during the Russellville Convention, Southern sympathizers attempted to establish an alternative state government with the goal of secession but failed to displace the legitimate government in Frankfort. On August 13, 1862, Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith's Army of East Tennessee invaded Kentucky and on August 28, 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi entered Kentucky beginning the Kentucky Campaign. Bragg's retreat following the Battle of Perryville left the state under the control of the Union Army for the remainder of the war.




June 1, 1792 (15th State)
State Tree:
Yellow Poplar
State Bird:
State Flower:
Currently, Kentucky's governor, Ernie Fletcher, both U.S. Senators, Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell, and out of six Congressional Districts, five U.S. Representatives are members of the Republican Party. The Kentucky Constitution provides for three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive. Kentucky's General Assembly has two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The executive branch is headed by the Governor. The judicial branch of Kentucky is made up of trial courts, called District and Circuit Courts; an intermediate appellate court, called the Kentucky Court of Appeals; and a court of last resort, the Kentucky Supreme Court. The Attorney General is Greg Stumbo.

Where politics are concerned, Kentucky historically has been very hard fought and leaned slightly toward the Democratic Party. It was never included among the "Solid South," 59% of the state's voters are officially registered as Democrats, although that majority has slimmed substantially in recent election cycles. Kentucky has voted Republican in five of the last seven presidential elections but has supported the Democratic candidates of the South. The Commonwealth supported Democrats Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, but Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Bush won the state's 8 electoral votes overwhelmingly in 2004 by a margin of 20 percentage points and 59.6% of the vote. The most solidly Democratic counties are in the mountainous eastern unionized coal mining region, especially Pike, Floyd, Knott, Menifee, Letcher, Perry and Breathitt, and the cities of Lexington and Louisville. The Jackson Purchase area in the far west was historically a Democratic stronghold but has moved Republican recently. Paducah author Irvin S. Cobb once wrote of the purchase area: "There was no doubt about our district. Whatever might betide, she was safe and sound - a Democratic Rock of Ages." The area was once referred to as the Gibraltar of Democracy.




The total gross state product for 2003 was US$129 billion. Its per-capita personal income was US$26,575, 41st in the nation. Kentucky's agricultural outputs are horses, cattle, tobacco, dairy products, hogs, soybeans, and corn. Its industrial outputs are transportation equipment, chemical products, electric equipment, machinery, food processing, tobacco products, coal, and tourism.

There are 5 income tax brackets, ranging from 2 percent to 6 percent of personal income. The sales tax rate in Kentucky is 6 percent. Kentucky has a broadly based classified property tax system. All classes of property, unless exempted by the Constitution, are taxed by the state, although at widely varying rates. And many of these classes are exempted from taxation by local government. Of the classes that are subject to local taxation, three have special rates set by the General Assembly, one by the Kentucky Supreme Court and the remaining classes are subject to the full local rate, which includes the tax rate set by the local taxing bodies plus all voted levies. Real property is assessed on 100 percent of the fair market value and property taxes are due by Dec. 31. Once the primary source of state and local government revenue, property taxes now account for only about 6 percent of the Kentucky's annual General Fund revenues.

Kentucky imposes a tax on intangible personal property held by a taxpayer on Jan. 1 of each year. Intangible property consists of any property or investment which represents evidence of value or the right to value. Some types of intangible property include: money market accounts, bonds, notes, retail repurchase agreements, accounts receivable, trusts, enforceable contracts sale of real estate (land contracts), money in hand, money in safe deposit boxes, annuities, interests in estates, loans to stockholders, and commercial paper.

Historically, a major problem with Kentucky's economy has been the fact that outside the Ohio River towns and Lexington, most rural counties never developed a widespread and localized industrial economy; meaning that up until World War II most families still depended on subsistence farming for survival. This is also the reason that most rural counties have only one sizable town and still have median household incomes that are often half the U.S. national average.