Kentucky is a great place to take a vacation with so many things to see and do. You can go to Louisville, KY and see Churchill Downs, go take a tour in Mammoth Cave, visit the horse farms in Lexington, KY, and so much more. In addition, there are several natural attractions to see in Kentucky.
This is a pass through the Cumberland Mountains, which is a region of the Appalachian Mountains. It is at the juncture of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The only place where you can stand in three states at one time. Just take a couple of steps and you are in another state. It was an important part of the Wilderness Road. Dr. Thomas Walker discovered the Cumberland Gap in 1750. Daniel Boone later widened it for settlers to go west.
The primary reason for its construction was a means of flood control. In addition, the production of hydroelectric power was another reason. The reservoir tanks hold enough water that could cover Kentucky with 3 inches of water. Over 1,500 houseboats float on Lake Cumberland a number of power boats play in the water. It is home to two Kentucky State Parks. They are Lake Cumberland State Resort and General Burnside State Park.
It is sometimes call the Little Niagara and is a large waterfall on the Cumberland River in southeastern Kentucky. The falls, which fall over a resistant sandstone bed, are 68 feet tall and 125 feet wide. The average water flow is 3,600 cubic feet per second. On a clear night under a full moon, you may be lucky to see a moon bow, or lunar rainbow formed by the mist from the falls.
Land between the Lakes
A United States National Recreation Area is located in Kentucky and Tennessee between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. It was designated a national recreation area by John F. Kennedy in 1963. It is the largest island peninsula in the United States. There are many hiking trails, many campgrounds, an off-road vehicle area, and much more.
Red River Gorge
It is a canyon system on the Red River in east-central Kentucky. Much of the gorge is inside the Daniel Boone National Forest. It has been designated as a National Natural Landmark. In these intricate canyon systems you will find high sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, natural bridges, and waterfalls. In the Red River Gorge Geological Area, there are over 100 natural sandstone arches.
The history of Kentucky was influenced by the state’s central location and diverse geography. During the pioneer days, there were many variations of the name, including Kaintuckee, and Cantuckey. The name of the state comes from a Cherokee name for area south of the Ohio River. No one is exactly sure what it meant but many believed the name to mean “meadowland.” The “Bluegrass State” is the official nickname for the state of Kentucky. The nickname comes from the famed species of grass that grows in central Kentucky and the role that the Bluegrass Region has played in the history and economy.
When the settlers and explorers began to enter Kentucky in the mid-18th century, no permanent Native American settlements were in the region, although the Native Americans inhabited the lands in prehistoric times. The Cherokees from the south and the Shawnee from the north used Kentucky as a common hunting ground. In addition, until 1768, the Iroquois also hunted there.
A scouting party led by Dr. Thomas Walker, in 1750, did an exportation of the area that would become Kentucky. During the American Revolution, settlers began to pour into the region. The renegade Cherokee Chief Dragging Canoe did not recognize the last treaty and responded by leading his tribe into the Chickamauga Wars (1776-1794). This was at the height of the War for Independence.
As the first settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains was founded after 1775, Kentucky grew rapidly. The settlers were from North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and they entered the region via the Ohio River and the Cumberland Gap. One of the most famous early explorers and settlers, and one of the founders of the state was Daniel Boone. The settlers introduced agriculture to the area in the form of corn, tobacco, and hemp. In addition, the hunting in the area faded away.
During the American Revolution, Kentucky was a battleground. In addition, the Battle of Blue Licks in Kentucky was the one of the last battles fought in the war. There were less than 200 settlers in Kentucky by 1776, due to the ongoing violence. The westernmost part of Kentucky was the hunting grounds of the Chickasaw by the 1786 Treaty of Hopewell. It remained their hunting grounds until they sold it to the United States in 1818.
On December 6, 1776, Kentucky County was created and on November, 1789, Virginia divided Kentucky County into three counties. The three counties were Jefferson, Lincoln, and Fayette. The residents of Kentucky County had the desire to separate from Virginia for several reasons. Traveling to the state capital was long and dangerous and in order to use local militia against Indian raids offensively required the authorization from the governor of Virginia. Virginia also refused to recognize the importance of trade along the Mississippi River in regards to Kentucky’s economy. On June 1, 1792, the United States Congress admitted Kentucky as the 15th state.
The first woman governor of Kentucky was Martha Lane Collins, from 1983-1987. Although cultivation is illegal, marijuana is the state’s largest cash crop and is grown throughout the rural areas statewide.
Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system known in the world with over 390 miles of passageways and is located in central Kentucky. The official name is the Mammoth-Flint Ridge Cave System. It is named for the ridge under which the cave was formed. It was established a national park in 1941, became a World Heritage Site in 1981, and an international Biosphere Reserve in 1990. It is primarily located in Edmonson County and small areas extending eastward to Barren County and Hart County. Mammoth Cave is centered on the Green River with a tributary, the Nolan River that feeds into the Green River inside the park.
Mammoth Cave developed in thick Mississippi-aged limestone strata capped by a layer of sandstone. This makes the passageways very stable. Although they state that there is 390 miles of passageways but each year they make new discoveries and connections, which add extra miles to the total. When you visit Mammoth Cave, you have several choices of tours to take. Some of the famous features can be seen on lighted tours that vary in length from one to six hours. When you take these tours, you can see some of the famous features such as Grand Avenue, Fat Man’s Misery, and Frozen Niagara.
Two tours offer an alternative to the electric-lit routes. On these tours, visitors carry paraffin lamps. Several wild tours venture away from the developed parts of the cave. These tours will take you into muddy crawls and dusty tunnels. When you take the tour, you will be able to see artifacts on display at certain points in the cave. National Park Service guides accompany a group of visitors on each tour. There used to be a boat tour called the Echo River Tour, but it was discontinued in 1990 due to environmental and logistic reasons.
The story of human beings spans six thousand years, in which several sets of Native American remains have been recovered from Mammoth Caves. Most mummies found present examples of intentional burial. There was incident of non-intentional burial when they discovered the remains of an adult male under a large boulder in 1935. The remains of the ancient victim, a pre-Columbian miner, named “Lost John.” They were exhibited to the public into the 1970s. After this time, the remains were interred in a secret location in Mammoth Cave. This was done for the reason of preservation and with the respect to the public displaying of Native American remains.
The first person to make extensive maps of the cave was Stephen Bishop, an African-American slave and guide to the caves during the 1940s and 1850s. Some of the animals that inhabit the cave are the Indiana bat, Grey bat, Little Brown bat, Big Brown bat, and the rare Eastern Small-footed bat. You will also find two species of crickets, a Cave salamander, a Cave shrimp, Cave crayfish, and blind fish. These fish have adapted to life in the dark and lacks functional eyes and pigmentation.
As most people already know, two sports are associated with Kentucky. This would be basketball and horseracing. In regards to basketball, you have the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals. The Kentucky Wildcats are students that attend the University of Kentucky. The Louisville Cardinals are students that attend the University of Louisville. There have always been a rival between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals. When this basketball game is played, everyone wants to watch and see who has bragging rights that year.
This rivalry began in 1913 when they played their first game but were dormant for several decades before they started to play regularly in the 1980s and 1990s. Basketball has been, historically, the important rivalry but football rivalry is slowly becoming more heated as the years go by. The rivalry has become more in tense when the head coach of the University of Kentucky, Rick Pitino, became the coach of the University of Louisville. The Battle for the Bluegrass is the name of the yearly basketball game. The game is played in late December or early January. The University of Kentucky is the current champion, and in the series, Kentucky leads 28-14 as the winner of the game.
The other big sport Kentucky is noted for is the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. This race takes place the first Saturday in May and the Kentucky Oaks is run on Friday, the day before the Kentucky Derby. It is known as “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” because that is how long it takes to run the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs officially opened in 1875 and in that same year, it hosted the first Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. Putting a garland of roses around the winning Kentucky Derby horse’s neck became a tradition in 1895. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup on six occasions.
In 1968, Churchill Downs became a historical landmark. In 2009, Churchill Downs held its first night race. The most recognizable architectural feature of Churchill Downs is the twin spires atop of the grandstand. These twin spires grandstand was built in 1895. Architect Joseph Dominic Baldaz designed them. They are the symbols of The Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs. Churchill Downs started with 80 acres and now has over 147 acres. The usual number of people seated at the Kentucky Derby is 50,000, but as many as 150,000 have attended. The infield is open for those that want to stand, or bring their own chairs.
The one thing that sticks out on Derby Day is the hats the women wear. They cover a wide range of styles, colors, and sizes. This part spectacle and part tradition the Kentucky Derby hat parade makes the Derby one of the greatest people watching events in the world. There are no limits or rules when it comes to choosing your Derby hat. It does not matter if they are to keep the sun from your eyes or to make a statement; they make a trip to the Kentucky Derby an unforgettable event.
In addition to the races that are held at Churchill Downs, there is also the Kentucky Derby Museum. It is focuses on the history of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs. You can see exhibits of the training and racing thoroughbreds.
You can find a significant part of Kentucky in the Appalachia. One unique feature about Kentucky is that it borders seven states. Two other states border eight states and also border Kentucky. Those two states are Missouri to the west and Tennessee to the south. The other five states that Kentucky borders are West Virginia to the east, Virginia to the southeast, Ohio to the north, northeast, and Indiana and Illinois to the northwest. The Ohio River forms the northern border and the Mississippi River forms the western border.
The climate of Kentucky is described as a humid subtropical climate. Monthly averages in the summer are 87 degrees and in the winter, it is 23 degrees. Kentucky experiences all four seasons. There can be striking variations in the severity of the summer and winter year to year. Some interesting facts about weather occurrences in Kentucky include the April 3, 1974 Tornado Outbreak, which killed 72 people, the flooding of 1997, which killed 18 people, and the January 2009 ice storm killed 24+ deaths. Some other incidents of nature are the Ohio River Flood of 1937, North American Blizzard of 2003 (Kentucky got mostly ice), and the Windstorm of 2008.
Kentucky has 90,000 miles of streams that provides one of the most complex and expansive stream systems in the nation. Kentucky has both the largest artificial lake east of the Mississippi in water volume, which is Lake Cumberland, and surface area, which is Kentucky Lake. Kentucky is the only U.S. state to be bordered on three sides by rivers. The rivers are the Mississippi River to the west, the Ohio River to the north, and the Big Sandy River and Tug Fork to the east. The major internal rivers are the Green River, the Kentucky River, the Tennessee River, Licking River, and the Cumberland River.
Kentucky has one national park, 2 national historic parks, 2 national recreation areas, 2 national wildlife refuges, 45 state parks, 82 wildlife management areas, and 37,696 acres of state forest. In the winter of 1997, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources began to re-stock elk in the state’s eastern counties. As of 2009, the herd had reached the project goal of 10,000 Elk. This is the largest herd east of the Mississippi River. In 1950, they re-stocked the wild turkeys and in 2009 during the 23-day season, there were a record of 29,006 turkeys.
Some of the natural attractions in Kentucky are:
- Cumberland Gap – Chief passageway through the Appalachian Mountains in early American history
- Cumberland Falls State Park
- Red River Gorge
- Mammoth Caves
- Land Between the Lakes
- Black Mountain
- Lake Cumberland
In Kentucky, there are the largest ancestries in the commonwealth, which include 30.6% English, 10.5% Irish, 12.7% German, and 7.8% African-American. Prior to the Civil War, African-Americans made up one fourth of Kentucky’s population. Five major Interstate Highways, nine parkways, and three spurs and bypasses serve Kentucky. The parkways were originally toll roads. The toll roads ended in 2006.