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Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky’s nickname is the Bluegrass State. It gets this name from the rolling meadows of the Bluegrass region in the central part of the state. That’s where a blue-green grass called bluegrass thrives. The fertile soils of the Bluegrass region drew Daniel Boone and other early pioneers to Kentucky in the late 1700s.

Today, the Bluegrass region is home to tobacco fields, thoroughbred horses, and the best farmland in Kentucky. The region has played a key role in Kentucky’s history and culture.



Facts About Kentucky






4,120,000 people

Rank among states in population


Major cities

Lexington-Fayette, Louisville, Owensboro


40,400 square miles
105,000 square kilometers

Rank among states in area



June 1, 1792, the 15th state

State nickname

The Bluegrass State

Name for residents


State bird


State flower


State tree

Tulip Tree (or Tulip Poplar)




Kentucky is in the east central United States. The Ohio River forms Kentucky’s wavy northern border. That puts Kentucky on the border between states in the North and states in the South.

Early pioneers spelled Kentucky many ways, including Kaintuckee and Cantuckey. The name Kentucky comes from the Cherokee Indians. It was their word for the land south of the Ohio River. No one is exactly sure, but some historians believe the word means “meadowland.”

On June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the 15th state to join the United States. Today, about 4 million people live in Kentucky. Frankfort is the capital. Lexington-Fayette is the largest city. But Louisville has Kentucky’s biggest metropolitan area.


Eastern Kentucky is mountainous. The Appalachian Mountains rise along Kentucky’s eastern border. The highest and most rugged land is in southeastern Kentucky. Here stands the state’s highest peak, Black Mountain. It climbs to a height of 4,145 feet (1,263 meters). Thick forests cover much of the southeast. Big coalfields lie beneath the surface.

The Bluegrass region spreads out over central Kentucky. The region’s grassy pastures and meadows are ideal for breeding and raising horses. Farmers plant tobacco and many other crops in the area’s rich soil.

Rolling hills and plains cover western Kentucky. In the southwest, many caves and tunnels snake beneath the ground. Kentucky reaches it lowest point in the far west. That’s where it touches the plain along the Mississippi River.


In colonial times, Kentucky was an unexplored wilderness west of the Appalachian Mountains. Daniel Boone helped to change that. From 1769 to 1771, Boone explored the Appalachians and found a narrow passage through the mountains called the Cumberland Gap. Later, Boone helped build the Wilderness Road through the mountains. Settlers traveling by wagon used the road to move into Kentucky.

Today, Cumberland Gap is a national historical park where the Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee borders meet. It has forested hills that are crossed by lots of hiking trails.


In 1861, a group of states in the South tried to leave the United States to form the Confederate States of America. The American Civil War was fought to hold the Union together. Kentucky was in between the North and the South, and its state government refused to take sides during the war.

But Kentuckians did. Both Union president Abraham Lincoln and Confederate president Jefferson Davis were born in Kentucky. Men from Kentucky fought in both the Confederate and Union armies. Because some Kentuckians sided with the Confederacy, the Confederates put a star on their flag to represent Kentucky. But the Union flag already had a star for Kentucky. Kentucky was on both flags!

In 1862, soldiers fought a bloody battle at Perryville in central Kentucky. More than 7,600 men died. Today, Perryville Battlefield State Historic Park commemorates this bloody battle.


Visitors in southeastern Kentucky often go to Mammoth Cave National Park. The park contains cave passages that extend for hundreds of miles, making it the longest known cave system in the world! Parts of it are still being explored.

The cave passages are on five different levels. They lead to a spectacular underground world of open chambers, deep shafts, and rock and crystal formations. There are even rivers flowing through the cave! Rare animals, such as blindfish and eyeless crayfish, make their homes here.


Bluegrass isn’t just a kind of grass or a region of Kentucky. It’s a style of country music that grew up in Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains. Bluegrass uses instruments such as banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Kentucky native Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys started the music in the late 1930s.

Kentucky also gave country music one of its great performers. Singer and songwriter Loretta Lynn was born in Butcher Holler, a coal-mining village. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is one of her big hits and the title of a film about her life.


There’s buried treasure in Kentucky! Only this gold wasn’t hidden by pirates. It was buried by the United States government at Fort Knox, Kentucky. This is the site of the United States Gold Depository. Deep underground, resting on solid rock, a steel and concrete vault holds gold bars worth billions of dollars!

The U.S. government built Fort Knox as a training camp during World War I (1914-1918). It’s still used for training soldiers. But usually when people think of Fort Knox, they think of gold.


Kentucky is world-famous for horses. The Bluegrass region is known for producing thoroughbred racing horses. Lexington is home to the International Museum of the Horse. The city is also the site of the Kentucky Horse Park, which hosts international competitions every year.

The Kentucky Derby is the most famous horse race in the state. The race takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville. It’s held every year on the first Saturday in May. More than 150,000 people attend the race. Winning the Kentucky Derby makes a horse famous overnight!

 Source: Microsoft ® Encarta