Discussion from McGrain and Currens (1978)

Carter County is located on the edge of the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field in northeastern Kentucky. The area is well dissected, and flat areas are not common except along the valleys of Little Sandy River, Little Fork of Little Sandy River, and parts of Tygarts Creek. A few upland flat areas are found in the vicinity of Olive Hill where resistant sandstones are present. Steep slopes are common in most parts of the county, and vertical sandstone bluffs are found along and near Tygarts Creek in the vicinity of Carter Caves State Park and along Big and Little Sinking Creeks in the Grahn area.

The highest elevations are found in the western and southwestern parts of the county. The Carter-Rowan County line follows the drainage divide between Licking River and Tygarts Creek. The highest elevation, 1,300 feet, is on a ridge about 3 miles north-northwest of Soldier on this divide. The Carter- Lewis County line follows the drainage divide between Kinniconick and Tygart Creeks. Elevations on this divide commonly exceed 1,100 feet and may be as great as 1,240 feet. Local reliefs of 300 feet or more in these two areas are common.

The lowest elevation is approximately 542 feet, where the Little Sandy River leaves the county. Oxbow lakes and abandoned meanders are present in the valley north of Grayson. The normal pool level of Grayson Lake on Little Sandy River south of Grayson is 645 feet. The elevation of Tygarts Creek where it leaves the county is approximately 600 feet.

Carter Caves State Park occupies a scenic area adjacent to the entrenched meandering valley of Tygarts Creek. The elevation of Ky. 182 at the entrance to the park is approximately 700 feet. Highest points in the park exceed 1,000 feet. The elevation of Smoky Valley Lake is 715 feet, and the park lodge is about 930 feet. Other elevations in the county include Carter at 674 feet; Globe, 821 feet; Grahn, 700 feet; Grayson, the county seat, 608 feet; Lawton, 790 feet; Olive Hill, 760 feet; Soldier, 985 feet; and Willard, 630 feet.

The 7.5-minute topographic quadrangle maps that cover Carter County are shown by name and index code (Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet) on the index map.

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