Natural Resources of the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky

Kentucky's Bluegrass Region is home to the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Kentucky's Bluegrass Region is home to the Daniel Boone National Forest. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, an area comprising about one-fifth of the state, is named for Poa pratensin, or bluegrass, which was introduced to the region and became common throughout. It is the most urbanized area in Kentucky. Due in part to its rich soil, this was the section of the state that was settled first when Europeans arrived in Kentucky.


The Daniel Boone National Forest is rich in lumber, mostly of the hardwood variety. Types of trees in the forest include northern red oak, basswood, beech, yellow poplar, sugar maple, birch, red maple, hemlock, yellow poplar, red oak, white oak, and hickories. More than 40 commercial species of trees and at least 40 non-commercial trees and shrubs populate the forest. The most productive hardwood stands are a combination of white oak, chestnut oak, northern red oak, black oak, scarlet oak, southern red oak, hickories, and occasional pines.


Farming in Kentucky is a $3.2 billion industry (agriculture and livestock combined) and the Bluegrass Region has some of the richest agricultural land in the state. Lexington is the largest burley tobacco market in the world. It produces more than 262 million lbs. annually. The state ranks first the production of non-alfalfa hay. Corn and soybean were the top crops in the state in 2008, and Union County produced the most of both. Farmland covers 54 percent of the total acreage in the state. Kentucky is in the top five in the nation for states with the most farms.


About half of the $3.2 billion farm receipts in Kentucky is from livestock. In 2008, top livestock was cattle and calves, horses and mules and chicken. Livestock is desirable in the region because of how easy it is to acquire forage. The Bourbon Stock Yard, which made Louisville into an economically robust city, is the oldest livestock marketing facility in the nation. Tobacco is a major crop in the Bluegrass Region. Agriculture was strong in Kentucky even before the thoroughbred industry was founded and it remains key to the health of the region.

Oil and Gas

Some 1,500 pools of oil and gas dot Kentucky. The first well was drilled by the salt industry in 1818 in search of brine. Through 2009 more than 165,000 drilled wells recover oil and gas. In the Bluegrass Region oil is produced from limestone and sandstone formations. Most of the natural gas is produced in this region from the Devonian black shale. The Daniel Boone National Forest in the Bluegrass Region is important in oil and gas production. Thirty percent of the oil, gas and coal rights in the forest are owned by the federal government and 70 percent is under private ownership. As of 2011, 110 leases are in the forest. The industry is regulated by Kentucky’s Division of Oil and Gas.

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