State: Kentucky – KY

Geography map of Kentucky

Published on July 29th, 2015 | by Brandon Ramsey in Geography


While the official name is the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the state abbreviation is KY and it is indeed one of the 50 U.S. States. It is one of four to be named a “commonwealth.” There are many things that make this place unique.

Today we’ll discuss the state symbols, geography, climate, and culture of this place. First, some key facts to know:

  • State Capital: Frankfort
  • Largest city: Louisville
  • Highest point: Black Mountain (4,145 feet)
  • Admitted to the Union: June 1, 1792 (15th)
  • Time Zones: EST (UTC -5/-4) CST (UTC -6/-5) for the eastern and western halves respectively.
  • Nickname: The Bluegrass state
  • Motto: “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”
  • State bird: Cardinal
  • State flag
  • Official Website: kentucky.gov

Map of Kentucky in the United States

KY State Overview

Kentucky is located in the south-central region of the United States. As one of only four states designated as a commonwealth, it is unique in that aspect. While the term doesn’t change anything legally about this place, it does carry a meaning that the “government is based on the common consent of the people.”

Prior to being admitted to the Union as the 15th state, it was a part of Virginia. The official nickname is “The Bluegrass State” which is based on the abundance of bluegrass found in the pastures due to a large amount of fertile soil.

While the grass isn’t blue (it’s green like you would expect) it was given this name because of the blue buds that appear on them during the spring months. There are variety of geographical features here, and a large amount of natural resources.

Mammoth Cave for example, is the world’s longest cave system located in the national park of the same name. This place is also home to the highest amount of deer and turkeys in the United States, in addition to the largest population of elk east of the Mississippi River, and the most productive coalfield in the nation.

Other notable things that the state is known for are the following:

  • Horse racing (The Kentucky Derby)
  • Bourbon distilleries
  • Automobile manufacturing (Bowling Green is home to the Chevy Corvette factory)
  • Tobacco
  • Bluegrass music
  • College basketball
  • Their signature fried chicken.

map of Kentucky

Kentucky State Symbols

There are over 29 official state emblems, along with designated places and events that all represent this place. The majority of these chosen symbols are decided upon by the General Assembly and written down in the Revised Statutes. While the traditional nickname is “The Bluegrass State,” this name is not a part of these laws.

Even so, it does appear on the license plates within the state. The first chosen symbol was the Seal which shows two men embracing, one a Pioneer and one a Statesmen. The state motto: “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” is written on the seal. Two sprigs of goldenrod are on each side of the seal.

This first symbol was chosen in 1792. It was the only symbol for over 130 years until the state bird, the Cardinal, was chosen in 1926. The newest symbols came in 2010 in the form of the official insect and the official sports car, the two being the honey bee and the Chevrolet Corvette respectively.

Multiple flags have been used to represent this place over the years. In the early history, various flags were used that represented the people and affiliations who traveled to settle there. The French Monarchy had control of the area until the French and Indian War.

After this war, the land was given to Great Britain and the Union Jack flag was used until the Revolutionary War.

During the time that it was part of Virginia, that flag flew. The war continued, and the cities of Louisville and Lexington decided to use the Betsy Ross flag. When it was admitted to the Union, the 15-star flag of the Union was used as the official flag for several years.

The Civil War brought with it yet another flag which was the Confederate States of America flag. The final flag was designed by Jesse Cox Burgess. He was an art teacher in Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky.

His design was chosen on March 26, 1918. His design was the seal of the commonwealth on a navy blue field.

Climate Trends and Geography

The most accurate classification of the climate here is a humid subtropical climate. Daytime summer temperatures aren’t extreme, and yearly precipitation sits around 46 inches annually.

The highest temperature ever recorded was 114 degrees Fahrenheit in 1930, while the lowest temperature was -37 degree Fahrenheit in 1994.

The location of this state contributes to winters that aren’t as cold as northern states, and summers that aren’t as hot as states in the Deep South. It’s very rare for temperatures to go over a hundred degrees or into the negatives.

A large chunk of the eastern area is part of the Appalachia. There are seven different states that border Kentucky as well:

  • Virginia (to the southeast)
  • West Virginia (midwest and southeast)
  • Tennessee (south)
  • Missouri (west)
  • Illinois and Indiana (northwest)
  • Ohio (north, northeast)

The north and western borders are formed by rivers. These borders were set based on the courses of the rivers in 1792, but since then the rivers have changed in certain places. There is an interesting location called the Kentucky Bend in the west corner.

It is an exclave that is surrounded by Missouri and Tennessee, but it is included in the boundaries of Fulton County. This small portion of the state requires a trip through Tennessee to reach and is only inhabited by 17 people who live near the Mississippi River.

The New Madrid Earthquakes had their epicenter near this area, resulting in the river flowing backward in certain places. The Bend was formed by a surveying error however, not these earthquakes as some would have you believe. The entire state can be divided into five distinct regions:

  • Cumberland Plateau
  • Bluegrass Region
  • Pennyroyal Plateau
  • Western Coal Fields
  • Jackson Purchase

Each region represents different geographical features. For example, the Jackson Purchase is marked by several cypress/tupelo swamps.

Before you head over to our list of Kentucky state facts, don’t forget to leave a comment below telling us about your experiences with this state.

printable map of Kentucky



About the Author
Brandon Ramsey

Brandon Ramsey is the head author and editor of The Time Now Blog. Be sure to follow us via social media!


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