Strange Maps: Kentucky’s but maybe not?

July 9, 2007

It’s a little-known fact that there is a 17-square-mile area of Kentucky that’s totally isolated from the rest of the state. How did this happen?

The southwestern border between Tennessee and Kentucky was set to follow latitude 36°30′ — a straight horizonal line with the Mississippi River on the western end and Kentucky Lake on the eastern end. When the border was established, surveyors had incorrectly estimated that the border would meet the Mississippi River just once. However, the Mississippi River actually flows south past latitude 36°30′, then loops back north, and then loops around again and flows down past latitude 36°30′ once again.

Kentucky Bend

Kentucky Bend 2

As you can see in the picture, the end result is that this 17-mile-square portion of Kentucky — called the Kentucky Bend — is surrounded by the Mississippi River (and the State of Missouri) on three sides, and Tennessee on the fourth side. The only way to get to this portion of Kentucky is via a small Tennessee country road. Just seventeen people live there, according to the 2000 Census.

Kentucky Bend 3

Tennessee tried to claim this land as its own, but then eventually dropped its claim by the late 1800’s. Mark Twain wrote about this area in his book, Life on the Mississippi.

I can’t imagine feeling detached and isolated like this. Even the mailing address is in Tennessee, not Kentucky. Who knows how law enforcement is set up — is it the responsibility of the sheriff from the same Kentucky county that this Bend area is part of, or from the nearest Tennessee county? Confusing. I wish the Kentucky Bend population well!


11 Responses to “Strange Maps: Kentucky’s but maybe not?”

  1. -ck Says:


    That’s one square mile per resident. Nice population density. But, still, that sucks. What about schooling? And all of the things we take for granted? Hmmm…

  2. jj Says:

    What do you care ? I don’t give a dim shit!

  3. proudgeek Says:

    Obviously JJ ain’t gonna win a College Bowl tourney based on his/her interest in geography …

  4. jj Says:

    Right, I am way way over the hill. No need to participate the College Bowl tourney!

  5. BarthoCR Says:

    Does anyone know why the border between Kentucky and Tennessee is not straight?

  6. yehuda Says:

    Are there any other enclaves of one state in another state in the U.S.?

  7. proudgeek Says:

    Yehuda, there are a good number of enclaves scattered throughout the USA, and I’ve written about some of them (see links below). There are even more along the Mississippi River, and even along the Delaware River on the New Jersey border.

  8. Steve Says:

    When I worked for the Commonwealth of Kentucky (doing geographic-type stuff) we called it “the raisin.”

  9. Luc V. Says:

    If you’re interested in enclaves, you might want to check out the situation at Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau, on the border between Belgium and Holland. There are 24 Belgian enclaves in Holland, and 7 Dutch enclaves within those Belgian enclaves…

  10. Enos Shenk Says:

    Heres another interesting one along the Ohio River. Just south of Evansville Indiana, Kentucky owns a small piece of land north of the Ohio River. This is a result from the New Madrid earthquake which shifted the course of the river, but the state boundaries stayed the same.,-87.542324&spn=0.088837,0.117073&z=13

  11. TJ Says:

    i have been here. i live in kentucky (near Paducah)
    you asked, what about school….
    did you forget we are talking about kentucky?
    it wouldnt matter if there was a school there or not.

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