Discussion from McGrain and Currens (1978)

Letcher County is in the mountainous southeastern part of the Eastern Kentucky coal field, with rugged terrain and great local relief. No county except Harlan has higher elevations.

Pine Mountain is the most conspicuous and striking topographic feature in the county. Crossing the county from southwest to northeast, the crest of this long, straight mountain marks approximately two-thirds of the southern county boundary. In the southwest it is the boundary between Letcher and Harlan Counties, and in the southeast it is the boundary between Letcher County, Kentucky, and Wise County, Virginia. Elevations along the crest of Pine Mountain range from approximately 2,900 feet on the west to 2,600 feet on the east. The highest elevation on Pine Mountain, 3,273 feet, is a peak approximately 5 miles east of Whitesburg. Differences in elevation between the mountain crest and the parallel valley floors approximately 1/2 mile to the north are commonly 1,200 to 1,300 feet. Two prominent landmarks on Pine Mountain, Hurricane Gap on the Letcher-Harlan County line and Pound Gap on the boundary between Letcher County, Kentucky, and Wise County, Virginia, have elevations of 2,220 and 2,380 feet, respectively.

North of Pine Mountain, the terrain is typical of the dissected Eastern Kentucky coal field, a region of irregular mountains and valleys with ridgetop elevations commonly between 2,000 and 2,300 feet. Local relief of 600 feet or more is found over most of this part of the county. The highest elevations in Letcher County are found on Black Mountain, a large, irregular mountain mass lying south of Pine Mountain. The crest of the mountain approximates part of the boundary between Letcher County, Kentucky, and Wise County, Virginia. Elevations in excess of 3,500 feet are common here. The highest elevation in Letcher County, 3,720 feet, is a peak on Black Mountain at the extreme southeastern corner of the county.

The lowest elevation in the county, approximately 940 feet, is the point where the North Fork of the Kentucky River leaves the western edge of the county. All the communities are located in the valleys. The elevation of Whitesburg, the county seat, is 1,164 feet. Elevations at other communities are Blackey, 1,000 feet; Fleming-Neon, 1,300 feet; Gordon, 1,309 feet; Jenkins, 1,526 feet; Letcher, 1,014 feet; Mayking, 1,214 feet; and Roxana, 1,043 feet.

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

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