The Bluegrass Region (Shawnee: Eskippakithiki) is a geographic region in the state of Kentucky, United States. It occupies the northern part of the state and since European settlement has contained a majority of the state's population and its largest cities. Pre European settlement the region was mostly a savannah with wide grasslands with enormous oak trees periodically placed. It contained large herds of bison and other wildlife, especially near salt licks. The name "Kentucky" itself means "meadow lands" in several different Indian languages and was specifically applied to this region, only becoming a name for the entire state much later. Europeans named the Bluegrass Region for the blue flowered Poa grass that grew there.
By 1800 farms began noticing that horses who grazed in the Bluegrass region were more durable than those from other regions - this is due to the high content of calcium in the soil. Within decades the herds of bison would be wiped out and replaced with numerous thoroughbred horse farms. Other forms of agriculture flourished as well, including the cultivation of grapes, hemp, and tobacco. The first commercial winery in the United States was opened in the Bluegrass Region in 1801 in present day Jessamine County by a group of Swiss immigrants.
The Bluegrass region is characterized by underlying fossiliferous limestone, dolostone, and shale of the Ordovician geological age. Hills are generally rolling, and the soil is highly fertile for growing pasture. Since antebellum years, the Bluegrass Region has been a center for breeding quality livestock, especially Thoroughbred race horses.
The area is becoming increasingly developed with residential and commercial properties, particularly around Lexington. Farms are losing ground to development and slowly disappearing. In 2006, The World Monuments Fund included the Bluegrass Region on its global list of 100 most endangered sites.
The Kentucky Bluegrass is bounded on the east by the Cumberland Plateau, with the Pottsville Escarpment forming the boundary. On the south and west, it borders the Pennyroyal Plateau, (also called the Pennyrile), with Muldraugh Hill, another escarpment, forming the boundary. Much of the region is drained by the Kentucky River and its tributaries. The river cuts a deep canyon called the Kentucky River Palisades through the region, preserving meanders that indicate that the river was once a mature low valley that was suddenly uplifted. Particularly near the Kentucky River, the region exhibits Karst topography, with sinkholes, caves, and disappearing streams that drain underground to the river.
Kentucky River in the Bluegrass region.
- "Shawnee Names and Migrations in Kentucky and West Virginia". The Ohio State University Knowledge Bank. May 1960. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Bill Monroe, considered the "Father of bluegrass music", named his band the Blue Grass Boys after his home state. He was from Rosine in western Kentucky. The music takes its name from that band, and hence from the state's nickname rather than the region.
- Raitz, Karl, and Nancy O’Malley, “The Nineteenth-Century Evolution of Local-Scale Roads in Kentucky’s Bluegrass,” Geographical Review, 94 (Oct. 2005), 415–39
- Bluegrass Heritage Museum
- Local Directory for Frankfort, the State Capital
- Slayman, Andrew (Spring 2007). "A Race Against Time for Kentucky's Bluegrass Country". World Monuments Fund. Retrieved 2009-11-07.
- Raitz, Carl; Nancy O'Malley (January 2007). "Local-scale turnpike roads in nineteenth-century Kentucky". Journal of Historical Geography 33 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2005.12.003.