State of Kentucky

Capital city Frankfurt
Biggest city Louisville
Surface 104,659 km²
Population 4,509,000
Length of highway network 2,313 km
First highway 1948
Abbreviation KY

Kentucky is a state in the eastern United States, located in the Upper South region. The state is located in a transition area between the Midwest and the southern United States and has 4.5 million inhabitants (2021). The capital is Frankfurt, but the largest city is Louisville. The state has an area of 104,749 square kilometers, making it almost three times the size of the Netherlands.


Kentucky is located in the interior of the United States, bordering the Southern and Midwestern states. The state borders Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri. The state measures a maximum of 650 kilometers from west to east and 275 kilometers from north to south. The northern border of Kentucky is formed by the mighty Ohio River, the western border by the Mississippi River. The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers flow through the west of the state and are formed by two large reservoirs, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the southeast of the state, with dense forests and the 1,263-foot Black Mountain as the highest point. Much of central and eastern Kentucky is hilly. The state has many forest areas, as well as scattered more open prairie land, although not nearly as dominant as the more northerly states of the Midwest. There is one national park in the state, the Mammoth Cave National Park.

The state has a humid subtropical climate, with warm and humid summers and relatively cold winters with frequent snow. There is approximately 1,000 mm of precipitation per year. The state is not part of the traditional Tornado Alley, but tornadoes do occur with some regularity, especially in the western half. Floods are rarer but can occur, often on a small scale.


Kentucky is nationally known for horse racing and bourbon whiskey production. Large parts of Kentucky are suitable for agriculture. It is also an important industrial state, especially for the production and assembly of motor vehicles. Eastern Kentucky has historically been a major coal product, but this is shrinking. Southeastern Kentucky is an economically disadvantaged area and is considered one of the poorest regions in the United States. Kentucky is also known for the location of Fort Knox, where much of America’s gold reserves are stored. It is an army base of 441 km² with approximately 10,000 inhabitants. Another major army base is Fort Campbell on the border with Tennessee where the famous 101st Airborne Division is stationed,


City Population
Louisville 629.000
Lexington 322,000
Bowling Green 73,000
Owensboro 60,000

Kentucky has a relatively slow-growing population by American standards. Shortly after 1850, it crossed the 1 million inhabitants mark, followed by the 2 million inhabitants mark at the end of the 19th century. It then took until 1960 to reach the 3 million population mark, and 4 million around 2000. Since 1900, population of Kentucky has experienced moderate growth of less than 1% per year, except in the 1970s when the population grew more rapidly.. In contrast, the population hardly grew in the 1980s.

The state has two major metropolitan regions, namely the metropolitan area of Louisville and the southern suburbs of the metropolitan area of Cincinnati, around the cities of Covington and Newport. The state has only two cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, namely Louisville and Lexington. Outside of that, there are only two towns with more than 50,000 residents, Bowling Green and Owensboro. See list of cities in Kentucky.  The countryside is relatively densely populated with many small towns. In addition, the suburbs of larger cities are generally small due to administrative fragmentation. The capital Frankfurt has only 25,000 inhabitants.

Kentucky is a relatively white state, although there are also an 8% minority of African Americans, particularly in and around Louisville. The proportion of Hispanics and Asians is very low.


The first Europeans in what is now Kentucky were French from Canada in the 17th century. It wasn’t until the mid-18th century that more Europeans came to Kentucky, the city of Cincinnati on the Ohio River in the state of Ohio is considered the historic starting point of urbanization in the interior of the United States. After the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, the region belonged to Virginia. Kentucky became the 15th state in 1792. In 1809, the future American president Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky. The state was originally neutral during the American Civil War, but then joined the Union in the north. In 1900, Governor Goebel was assassinated in Kentucky. This was the first and so far only time that a governor was assassinated in the United States while serving as governor.

Map of Kentucky