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Where Is Karst Located in Kentucky?

Kentucky is one of the most famous karst areas in the world. Much of the state's beautiful scenery, particularly the horse farms of the Inner Bluegrass, is the result of development of karst landscape. The karst topography of Kentucky is mostly on limestone, but also some dolostone. The areas where those rocks are near the surface closely approximate where karst topography will form. The map below shows the outcrop of limestone and dolostone and closely represents the karst areas. The bedrock is millions of years old, and the karst terrain formed on them is hundreds of thousands of years old. In humid climates such as Kentucky's you should assume that all limestone has karst development, although that development may not be visible at the surface.

 

Generalized map of the karst regions of Kentucky.

Generalized map of the karst regions of Kentucky. The darker blue areas are highly karstic, and the lighter blue areas are less karstic. A more detailed, larger-scale map can be downloaded, or a paper copy is available from the Public Information Center at KGS.

The outcrop area of the limestone bedrock in Kentucky has been used to estimate the percentage of karst terrain or topography in the state. About 55 percent of Kentucky is underlain by rocks that could develop karst terrain, given enough time. About 38 percent of the state has at least some karst development recognizable on topographic maps, and 25 percent of the state is known to have well-developed karst features. Some Kentucky cities located on karst include (in the Inner Bluegrass) Frankfort, Louisville, Lexington, Lawrenceburg, Georgetown, Winchester, Paris, Versailles, and Nicholasville; (in the Western Pennyroyal) the communities of Fort Knox, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Munfordville, Russellville, Hopkinsville, and Princeton; (in the Eastern Pennyroyal) Somerset, Monticello, and Mount Vernon. A more detailed description of karst in Kentucky can be found in KGS Information Circular 4.