Discussion from McGrain and Currens (1978)

Most of Madison County lies in the Outer Bluegrass Region of central Kentucky, but the extreme southern area includes the outer edge of the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field. Various parts of the county are gently rolling, hilly, and mountainous. The most striking topographic features are the deeply entrenched valley of the Kentucky River, which marks the northern boundary of the county, and the Cumberland Escarpment in the southern area.

Ridgetops in the northern half of the county are commonly 900 to 1,000 feet, some 350 to 450 feet above the Kentucky River. The area is hilly, and few flat areas occur. The lowest elevation in the county, approximately 530 feet, is at the confluence of the Kentucky River and Paint Lick Creek at the northeastern corner of the county.

North and northeast of Berea, in the south-central part of the county, the topography is more subdued. Although the elevations are around 1,000 feet, the relief is the lowest in the county. The principal areas of flat land in the county are found here.

The highest elevations and the greatest local reliefs are found in the area south of a line between Berea and Panola. The Cumberland Escarpment and the hills resulting from the erosion of the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field front are striking topographic features. Peaks and ridges rise 600 to 700 feet or more above the valley floors. Pilot Knob, at 1,411 feet, and Indian Fort Mountain, at 1,552 feet, both near the community of Bighill, are examples of such erosional remnants. Bear Mountain, 3 miles southeast of Berea, has the highest elevation in Madison County at 1,660 feet.

The elevation of Richmond, at the courthouse, is 950 feet. Other elevations are Berea, 1,034 feet; Bighill, 813 feet; Bybee, 910 feet; Fort Boonesboro State Park, 585 feet; Kingston, 928 feet; Kirksville, 994 feet; Moberly, 877 feet; Panola, 791 feet; Valley View, 568 feet; and Waco, 827 feet. The spillway elevation of Lake Reba is 857 feet, and at Taylor Fork Lake the spillway is at 825 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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