The Rivers Of Kentucky

The Ohio River is the largest tributary by volume of the Mississippi River. It is approximately 981 miles long. It flows through or along the border of six states, including northern Kentucky. The river is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at Point State Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It flows along the borders of West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, until it joins the Mississippi near the city of Wickliffe Kentucky. While the Ohio River is quite deep, it is a naturally shallow river that was artificially deepened by series of dams. The dams raise the water level in shallow stretches, allowing for commercial navigation. Cities along the Ohio River include: Ashland, Augusta, Newport, Maysville, Covington, Lewisport, Ludlow, Louisville, Owensboro, Hawesville, Henderson, and Paducah.

The Kentucky River is a tributary of the Ohio River and is 259 miles long. It is formed in eastern Kentucky at Beattyville, in Lee County, by the confluence of the North, Middle and South Forks at about 670 feet elevation, and flows generally northwest, in a highly meandering course through the mountains, through the Daniel Boone National Forest, then past Irvine and Boonesborough, then southwest, passing south of Lexington, then north through Frankfort. It joins the Ohio at Carrollton. Approximately 15 miles southwest of Boonesborough it is joined by the Red River. Approximately 20 miles southwest of Boonesborough it is joined by Silver Creek. At High Bridge, it is joined by the Dix River. At Frankfort, it is joined by Benson Creek. Approximately 10 miles north of Frankfort, it is joined by Elkhorn Creek. Between Clays Ferry in Madison County and Frankfort, the river passes through the Kentucky River Palisades, a series of dramatic steep gorges approximately 100 miles in length.

The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River. It is approximately 652 miles long. The Tennessee River is formed at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers on the east side of Knoxville, Tennessee. From Knoxville, it flows southwest through East Tennessee toward Chattanooga before crossing into Alabama. It loops through northern Alabama and eventually forms a small part of the state's border with Mississippi, before returning to Tennessee. The final part of the Tennessee's run is in Kentucky, where it separates the Jackson Purchase from the rest of the state. It then flows into the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky. It is one of a very few rivers in the United States which leave a state and then re-enter it. The river has been dammed numerous times, primarily by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) projects. The placement of TVA's Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River and the Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River directly led to the creation of Land Between the Lakes. A navigation canal located at Grand Rivers, Kentucky links Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The canal allows for a shorter trip for river traffic going from the Tennessee to most of the Ohio River, and for traffic going down the Cumberland River toward the Mississippi.

The Cumberland River is an important waterway in the Southern United States. It is 678 miles long. It starts in Letcher County in eastern Kentucky on the Cumberland Plateau, flows through southeastern Kentucky before crossing into northern Tennessee, and then curves back up into western Kentucky before draining into the Ohio River at Smithland, Kentucky. The Cumberland River is a wild river above the headwaters of Lake Cumberland. Cumberland Falls, a 68-foot waterfall on this section of river, is one of the largest waterfalls in the eastern United States. Most of the river below Lake Cumberland's Wolf Creek Dam is navigable because of a number of locks and dams. Dams at various locations of the Cumberland River have created large reservoirs for recreation such as Lake Barkley in western Kentucky and Lake Cumberland in southern Kentucky.

The Green River is a tributary of the Ohio River that rises in Lincoln County in south-central Kentucky. Tributaries of the Green River include the Barren River, the Nolin River, the Pond River and the Rough River. The river takes its name from its green color, which is caused by the water's depth. The Green River flows through Mammoth Cave National Park, located at miles 190-205. The river drains the cave and controls the master base level of the Mammoth Cave System. The construction of a 9 foot dam at Brownsville, Kentucky in 1906 has raised the water level in some parts of the cave system by as much as six feet above its natural value. The 300-mile long Green River, an important transportation artery for the coal industry, is open to traffic up to the closed Lock and Dam at mile 108.

The Licking River is a tributary of the Ohio River, approximately 320 mi (515 km) long in northeastern Kentucky. It rises in the Cumberland Plateau of eastern Kentucky, in southeastern Magoffin County. It flows northwest in a highly meandering course past Salyersville and West Liberty. In Rowan County in the Daniel Boone National Forest it is impounded to form the large Cave Run Lake reservoir. Northwest of the reservoir it receives Fleming Creek approximately 8 miles northwest of Carlisle and flows across the Bluegrass region of northern Kentucky. It receives the North Fork from the east approximately 10 miles northwest of Mount Olivet and the South Fork from the south at Falmouth. It joins the Ohio opposite Cincinnati, Ohio, where it separates the cities of Covington and Newport.

The Little Sandy River is a tributary of the Ohio River, about 90 miles, in northeastern Kentucky. The Little Sandy rises in southern Elliott County and flows generally north-northeastwardly in a meandering course through Elliott, Carter and Greenup Counties, past the towns of Sandy Hook and Grayson. It joins the Ohio River at Greenup Ky.


Last Updated: October 2013