Skip to Main Content
Ekstrom Library

Government Resources: States: Kentucky Facts

Kentucky Facts

Kentucky Facts

State Capital

Frankfort became the capital in 1792 after pledging more manpower toward the construction of a statehouse than any other city. During the Civil War, Frankfort was the only Union capital occupied by Confederate troops.

Frankfort is located astride a double curve in the Kentucky River in the central portion of the state and is known for having one of the most beautiful capital buildings in the country. Frankfort’s population is slightly less than 30,000.


Kentucky's Gross State Product (GSP) increased to a record $156. billion during 2008. Kentucky’s GSP for 2002 was $122.28 billion. The largest industry groups, based on their contribution to the total state gross product are: manufacturing, services, government, insurance and real estate, retail trade, transportation and public utilities, wholesale trade, construction, mining, farming and agricultural services, forestry, and fisheries. For more information, please visit the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development web site.


Kentucky had 85,000 farms in 2008, according to the Kentucky field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Kentucky farm size averaged 164 acres.

In 2009, Kentucky set a record for farm income with $4.29 billion. Horses were the leading source of farm income for Kentucky farmers, followed by broilers, cattle, tobacco, soybeans and corn. Kentucky is home to some of the world’s leading thoroughbred farms and thoroughbred auctions.

Kentucky still leads the nation in burley tobacco production, even though the federal tobacco price support program was discontinued in 2005. The state is second in the U.S. in total tobacco production and is in the top 20 in corn, soybeans, winter wheat, hay, barley and sorghum.

Kentucky is the leading beef cattle state east of the Mississippi River and is eighth in the nation overall. Kentucky is seventh in broilers and in the top 20 in goats, dairy cows, swine and chickens other than commercial broilers. For more information about Kentucky agriculture, visit the Kentucky Department of Agriculture web site.


Located in the south central United States along the west side of the Appalachian Mountains, Kentucky ranks 37th in land size, with 39,732 square miles (102,907 square kilometers). The Commonwealth is bordered by seven states: Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois. The Ohio River flows 664 miles (1,068 kilometers) along the northern and western borders of the state. Kentucky's highest point is Black Mountain in Harlan County, 4,145 feet (1,264 meters) above sea level; its lowest point, the Mississippi River in Fulton County , 257 feet (78 meters) above sea level.

Natural Resources

Kentucky has more miles of running water than any other state except Alaska. The numerous rivers and water impoundments provide 1,100 commercially navigable miles (1,770 kilometers).

Kentucky has 12.7 million acres of commercial forest land - 50% of the state's land area. The main species of trees are white oak, red oak, walnut, yellow poplar, beech, sugar maple, white ash and hickory. Kentucky ranks third among hardwood producing states.

The total value of Kentucky's mineral production in 1999 was $3.8 billion. Principal minerals and by-products produced in order of value are coal, crushed stone, natural gas and petroleum. Kentucky is the nation's third largest coal producer - 152.4 million tons in 1996. For more information, please visit the Enviromental and Public Protection Cabinet web site.


In 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Kentucky's population was 4,339,387. The largest cities are listed below:

    Louisville-Jefferson County Metro 1,258,577
    Lexington-Fayette County 295,803
    Bowling Green 56,598
    Owensboro 55,745
    Covington 43,082
    Richmond 33,458
    Hopkinsville 32,095
    Henderson 27,952
    Frankfort 27,382
    Jeffersontown 26,442
    Paducah 25,720

There's Only One

Kentucky is home to many unique places and attractions that can’t be found anywhere else. Among these are:

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace National Historic Site, Hodgenville

Built at the location of Lincoln's birth the solid marble, neoclassical monument houses the symbolic cabin of Lincoln's birth. Be sure to see the audiovisual presentation in the Visitor Center and the Sinking Spring where the Lincoln's drew their water. Site now includes Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek.

Butcher Hollow – Loretta Lynn’s Birthplace, Paintsville

Home of country music divas Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle. Tourists are asked to stop at the #5 store for directions and availability of guide.

Churchill Downs Racetrack, Louisville

The Worlds Most Legendary Racetrack. Churchill Downs is one of the most hallowed shrines in American Sports, and since its founding in 1874, has hosted the nation's top Thoroughbreds in competition for some of the sport's largest purses. On the first Saturday in May, the sports world's spotlight shines on Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, known as the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports." The Spring Race Meet runs from the last Sunday in April through the first Sunday in July. The Fall Race Meet runs from the last Sunday in October through the last Saturday in November.

International Bluegrass Music Museum, Owensboro

State of the art, interactive museum dedicated to preserving and encouraging the growth of, Kentucky’s native sound, bluegrass music. See the changing exhibits, hear examples of the music from its root to today's newest acts, take a guided tour with instrument demonstrations and try creating your own bluegrass mix.

Keeneland Race Course, Lexington

Each April and October in the Horse Capital of the World, Thoroughbred racing is showcased at the highest level, drawing the world’s best horses and horsemen to one of the world's most beautiful race courses. To mark its 75th anniversary, Keeneland is planning a series of events, culminating in a special one-night only performance by the Boston Pops on Saturday, October 15, during the Fall Meet. But there is plenty going on in advance of that! The year-long celebration also includes salutes to Keeneland at the Blue Grass Trust Antiques and Garden Show in March and the Keeneland Concours d’Elegance in July.

All year long, Keeneland is celebrating its history by looking back—decade by decade—at major events and milestones that shaped modern-day Keeneland. Find out more at

Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington

The only park of its kind in the world, the Kentucky Horse Park is a working horse farm/educational theme park and equine competition facility dedicated to man's relationship with the horse. Set on more than 1,200 acres in the heart of Kentucky's famous Bluegrass region, the park features nearly 50 different breeds of horses at work and at play.

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Renfro Valley

The Hall of Fame & Museum honors Kentucky performers, songwriters, publishers, promoters, managers, broadcasters, comedians and other music professionals who have made significant contributions to the music industry in Kentucky and around the world. Located near the Renfro Valley Entertainment Complex.

My Old Kentucky Home, Bardstown

Federal Hill, a former plantation owned by the Rowan family and now more commonly called "My Old Kentucky Home," is in the picturesque community of Bardstown at My Old Kentucky Home State Park. A visit to Federal Hill in 1852 is said to have inspired Stephen Foster to write the song, My Old Kentucky Home, the official State song for Kentucky.

National Quilt Museum, Paducah

The world's largest quilt museum exhibits more than 150 quilts in frequently changing exhibits. From modern art quilts to traditional and antique quilts, each visit is a new and exciting experience!

Museum Row – Louisville

Frazier International History Museum

Take an unforgettable journey through 1,000 years and see two world-class collections, Britain's Royal Armouries (which includes the Tower of London) and The Frazier Collection, in this state-of-the-art museum.

Louisville Science Center

Experience three floors of engaging hands-on exhibits that the whole family will enjoy or see an incredible film in our four-story IMAX Theatre. Come see our permanent exhibits, THE WORLD AROUND US, which explores natural and earth sciences; THE WORLD WITHIN US, which explores the incredible body that's yours for life; and THE WORLD WE CREATE, which explores scientific advancements.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Experience history-in-the-making as you stroll through the factory where world famous Louisville Slugger baseball bats, the official bats of Major League baseball, are made. Home of the World’s Biggest Baseball Bat.

Muhammad Ali Center

Featuring two-and-a-half levels of interactive exhibits and captivating multimedia presentations, the Ali Center carries on Muhammad’s legacy and inspires the exploration of the greatness within ourselves. Includes an amazing five-screen orientation theater film, historical Civil Rights era media footage, an interactive timeline of Ali’s life, video-on-demand of Ali’s fights, hands-on boxing fun, Howard L. Bingham and LeRoy Neiman exhibit galleries.

Natural Attractions

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Encompassing 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, this pristine natural setting offers, panoramic view, hiking, fishing and white water rafting

Breaks Interstate Park

One of two interstate parks in America, the park encompasses 4,500 acres of woodland and is home of the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River, commonly called the Grand Canyon of the South.

Cave Run Lake

8,300 acres surface area located in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The lake is known as the "Muskie Fishing Capitol of the South." Towns in the area are Frenchburg and Morehead.

Cumberland Falls

Known as the "Niagara of the South," the waterfall forms a 125-foot wide curtain that plunges 60 feet into the boulder-strewn gorge below. The mist of Cumberland Falls creates the magic of the moonbow, only visible on a clear night during a full moon. This unique phenomenon appears nowhere else in the Western Hemisphere.

Cumberland Gap National Historic Park

At Cumberland Gap, the first great gateway to the west, follow the buffalo, the Native American, the longhunter, the pioneer... all traveled this route through the mountains into the wilderness of Kentucky. Modern day explorers and travelers stand in awe at this great gateway and the many miles of trails and scenic features found in the park.

Kentucky Lake

Spanning the western portion of Tennessee and southwest Kentucky, the lake is 184 miles long, has 2,380 miles of shoreline, and 160,300 surface acres of water at summer water levels. Because the lake is located along a major waterfowl migration route, it supports a wintering population of more than 450,000 waterfowl. Cities along the lake include Aurrora, Benton, Gilbertsville, Grand Rivers, Murray and New Concord.
Lake Barkley

Bordering TVA's Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in the rolling hills of southwest Kentucky and north central ennessee, this lake offers waterfowl hunting, fishing, nature trails, a national battlefield, and a national waterfowl refuge. Cities along Lake Barkley include Cadiz, Eddyville, Grand Rivers and Kuttawa.

Lake Cumberland

The lake provides varied outdoor recreation opportunities for millions of visitors each year. Because of the temperate climate and relatively long recreation season, visitors have numerous activities to choose from including fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, boating, canoeing, hiking, and many others. Towns in the area are Albany, Burnside, Jamestown, Russell Springs, and Somerset.

Land Between the Lakes

Located in Western Kentucky and Tennessee, LBL offers 170,000 acres of wildlife, history and outdoor recreation opportunities, wrapped by 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline. There's so much to do, it's no wonder LBL is called the heartland's outdoor playground!


Red River Gorge

A great destination for remote back-country camping, hiking, world-class climbing or just taking in nature's splendid scenery. More than 80 natural arches, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, a 36-mile looping driving tour, and the Red River (Kentucky's only National Wild and Scenic River) are in store.



*The bloodiest civil war battle was fought in Perryville, Kentucky . 
*The first town in the United States to be named for the first president was Washington, Ky. It was named in 1780. 
*1792 - Kentucky was the first state on the western frontier to join the Union  
*In the War of 1812 more than half of all Americans killed in action were Kentuckians. 
*1816 - (first promoted) Mammoth Cave, with 336+ miles of mapped passages, is the world's longest cave. It is 379 feet deep and contains at least 5 levels of passages. It's second only to Niagara Falls as the most popular tourist attraction in the US . It became a National Park on July 1, 1941. 
*The first American performance of a Beethoven symphony was in Lexington in 1817. 
*Begun in 1819 the first commercial oil well was on the Cumberland River in McCreary County . 
*Kentucky is the state where both Abraham Lincoln, President of the Union, and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, were born. They were born less than one hundred miles and one year apart. 
*1856 - The first enamel bathtub was made in Louisville 
*In 1873, Louisville druggist John Colgan invented something that you can find in any just about every grocery store in the world, chewing gum. 
*1883 - The first electric light bulb was shown in Louisville. Thomas Alva Edison introduced his invention to crowds at the Southern Exposition. 
*1887 - Mother's Day was first observed in Henderson by teacher Mary S. Wilson. It became a national holiday in 1916. 
*The radio was invented by a Kentuckian named Nathan B. Stubblefield of  Murray in 1892. It was three years before Marconi made his claim to the invention. 
*Pike County the world's largest producer of coal is famous for the Hatfield-McCoy feud, an Appalachian vendetta that lasted from the Civil War to the 1890s. 
*1893 - 'Happy Birthday to You', probably the most sung song in the world, was written by two Louisville sisters - Mildred and Patricia Hill. 
*Late 19th century - Bibb lettuce was first cultivated by Jack Bibb in  Frankfort, Kentucky 
*1896 - The first (known) set of all male quintuplets was born in Paducah . 
*Carrie Nation the spokesperson against rum, tobacco, pornography, and corsets was born near Lancaster in Garrard County. 
*1926 - A Hot Brown is a hot sandwich originally created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, by Fred K. Schmidt. 
*1934 - Cheeseburgers were first tasted (created) at Kaelin's Restaurant in Louisville. 
*1937 - The first Wigwam Village Motel, with units in the shape of a 'teepee', was built by Frank A. Redford in Cave City . 
*The "Old Fashion" drink was created in Louisville KY 
*The world's largest baseball bat, a full one hundred twenty (120) feet tall and weighing 68,000 pounds, can be seen at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville (Jefferson Co.). 
*Chevrolet Corvettes are manufactured only in Bowling Green. 
*Covington (St. Mary's Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption) is home to the world's largest hand blown stained glass window in existence. It measures an astounding 24 feet by 67 feet and contains 117 different figures. 
*The world's largest crucifix, standing at sixty feet tall, is in Bardstown (Nelson Co.). 
*Fort Knox holds more than $6 billion worth of gold - the largest amount stored anywhere in the world. 
*The JIF plant in Lexington is the world's largest peanut butter producing facility. 
*Kentucky has more resort parks than any other state in the nation.. 
*Middlesboro is the only United States city built inside a meteor crater. 
*Newport is home to The World Peace Bell, the world's largest free-swinging bell. 
*Post-It Notes are made exclusively in Cynthiana, Ky.  
*Shaker Village (Pleasant Hill) is the largest historic community of its kind in the U.S.

*Kentucky is best known for its beautiful blue grass. 
*Cumberland is the only waterfall in the world to regularly display a Moonbow. It is located just southwest of Corbin  in Cumberland Falls State Park. 
*Thunder Over Louisville is the opening ceremony for the Kentucky Derby Festival and is the largest fireworks display in the U.S.

*High Bridge located near Nicholasville is the highest railroad bridge over navigable water in the United States .

*The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington has 82 stained-glass windows including the world's largest hand-blown one. The window measures 24 feet wide by 67 feet high and depicts the Council of Ephesus with 134 life-sized figures. 
*The Lost River Cave and Valley Bowling Green includes a cave with the shortest and deepest underground river in the world. It contains the largest cave opening east of the Mississippi .. 
*The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held horse race in the country. It is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. 
*Kentucky is the horse capitol of the world. 
*Muhammed Ali, The Greatest and most recognized face in the world was born in Louisville, KY.  
Locals tell that Harriet Beecher Stowe got her inspiration to write UNCLE TOM’S CABIN while witnessing slaves being sold in Washington, KY.


Kentucky Film Office