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Kentucky State Flag Kentucky

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The Geography of Kentucky

Click here  for a few definitions.

Longitude / Latitude Longitude: 81° 58'W to 89° 34'W
Latitude: 36° 30'N to 39° 9'N
Kentucky map
Kentucky base and elevation maps
Length x Width Kentucky is about 380 miles long and 140 miles wide.  
Geographic Center
Explanation
The geographic center of Kentucky is located in Marion County, 3 miles NNW of Lebanon.
Longitude: 84° 30.4'W
Latitude: 37° 21.5'N
 
Borders Kentucky is bordered by Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio in the north. On the south, Kentucky is bordered by Tennessee. West Virginia and Virginia border Kentucky on the east and Missouri borders Kentucky on the west.
Total Area Kentucky covers 40,411 square miles, making it the 37th largest of the 50 states.
Land Area 39,732 square miles of Kentucky are land areas.
Water Area 679 square miles of Kentucky are covered by water.
Highest Point The highest point in Kentucky is Black Mountain at 4,139 feet above sea level.
Lowest Point The lowest point in Kentucky is 257 feet above sea level; the Mississippi River.
Mean Elevation The Mean Elevation of the state of Kentucky is 750 feet above sea level.
Major Rivers Cumberland River, Green River, Kentucky River, Mississippi River, Ohio River
Major Lakes Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, Lake Cumberland

The Land

Kentucky Physiography Map
Courtesy of the University of Kentucky
Kentucky Geological Survey
Kentucky is not one of the largest states, but its geography is diverse. It is composed of five geographic regions that attest to this diversity; the Bluegrass Region, the Cumberland Plateau, the Western Coal Field, the Pennyroyal Region, and the Jackson Purchase Region.

Bluegrass Region: In the northern central area of Kentucky lies the Bluegrass Region. This area extends into Ohio but is bordered in Kentucky on the north and west by the Ohio River. This area of Kentucky is characterized by rolling meadows in the central portion and by sandstone "knobs" on the eastern, southern, and western edges. These areas are referred to as the Knobs Region.

Cumberland Plateau: The Appalachian Plateau which extends from New York to Alabama is referred to as the Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky. This area, in the eastern portion of the state, consists of mountains, plateaus, and valleys. The Cumberland and Pine mountain ranges are found in this region of Kentucky as well as Black Mountain, the highest point in the state.

Western Coal Field: Northwestern Kentucky is a land of hills bordered by the Ohio River on the north, and the Pennyroyal region on the east, west, and south. It's called the Western Coal Field because of its large coal deposits. Farmland borders the Ohio River in the Western Coal Field.

Pennyroyal Region: The Pennyroyal Region (also called Pennyrile) stretches along the southern border of Kentucky from the Appalachian Plateau west all the way to Kentucky Lake. The southern portion of the Pennyroyal Region consists of flat lands with some rolling hills. In the center of the region lies a treeless area called The Barrens. The northern section consists of rocky ridges. Under this rocky area are underground caves and tunnels. Mammoth Cave is located in the Pennyroyal region. By the way, the Pennyroyal region is named after the small herb that grows there.

Jackson Purchase Region: In the far western tip of Kentucky is the Jackson Purchase Region, part of greater Gulf Plains Region that starts at the Gulf of Mexico and extends north to Illinois. This area is bordered on the east by Kentucky Lake. To the north is the Ohio River; to the west, the Mississippi River. This area is characterized by flood plains with low hills. The Mississippi River crosses the Madrid Fault zone here. Earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards! Reelfoot Lake, near the Tennessee border was created when this happened.

( Kentucky Close-up )

Climate (All temperatures Fahrenheit)
Highest Temperature The highest temperature recorded in Kentucky is 114°, Fahrenheit. This record high was recorded on July 28, 1930 at Greensburg.
Lowest Temperature The lowest temperature in Kentucky, -37°, was recorded on January 19, 1994 at Shelbyville.
Average Temperature Monthly average temperatures range from a high of 87.6 degrees to a low of 23.1 degrees.
Climate The state of Kentucky has a moderate climate, characterized by warm, yet moist conditions. Summers are usually warm, and winters cool. Kentucky's weather patterns are influenced by the Gulf of Mexico, especially during summer. Much of Kentucky's average 46 inches of precipitation a year falls in spring, the rainiest season. From south to north, precipitation decreases. Southern Kentucky receives the highest average precipitation, about 50 inches a year, while the north averages only 40 inches.

Kentucky is located in a path several storm systems follow. Storms happen year-round; however most storms occur between March and September.

Average yearly precipitation for Kentucky, from 1971 to 2000, is shown on this chart from Oregon State University.

Sources:
The World Almanac of the U.S.A. by Allan Carpenter and Carl Provorse, Copyright © 1998
James W. Hammack, Jr. and Karl B. Raitz, "Kentucky," World Book Online Americas Edition, http://www.worldbookonline.com/wbol/wbPage/na/ar/co/297680, August 14, 2001.
The United States Geological Survey Website
Maps.com http://www.maps.com
To Kansas geography. To Louisiana geography.

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