Why 30 Square Miles of KY Is Cut Off From the Rest of the State
Back in 1990, I was touring the newly renovated Roberts Stadium in Evansville. Of course, the iconic old barn is no longer with us, but anyone who remembers it can likely share GREAT memories, just like me.
The New Madrid Earthquake That Never Happened
On this date, however, I'll admit I was a bit nervous. It was December 3rd, and that was the date the late Iben Browning, a climatologist, predicted that we would be experiencing a massive earthquake along the New Madrid Fault. It was supposed to be "the big one" and it set off a wave of panic. Three decades later, I'm sure why we put so much stock into this man's prognostication, but we did. And there I was, essentially UNDER Roberts Stadium. Yes, his words were going through my mind.
The Massive New Madrid Earthquake That Did Happen
Obviously, it did not happen, but that faultline--named for New Madrid MO--WAS the culprit behind multiple enormous quakes in 1811 and 1812. It was the kind of mammoth disruption that altered the course of the Mississippi River--it flowed backward, created Reelfoot Lake, and caused church bells to ring more than 1,200 miles away.
Did Quakes Cause the Geographical Oddity Known as Kentucky Bend?
Not only did these quakes create the kind of havoc we only usually see in big special-effects-laden blockbusters, it cut a piece of Kentucky off from the rest of the state.
Known as Kentucky Bend--alternate names include New Madrid Bend, Bessie Bend, and Bubbleland--this tiny region of the Commonwealth only covers 30 square miles and has a population of just nine people. But the mailing address for those folks is actually Tiptonville TN, the nearest town.
Quakes Alone Aren't Believed to Be the Only Reason for Kentucky Bend
After learning about the the New Madrid quakes and knowing the kind of changes they wrought, it's easy to believe they alone were the reason there's this weird piece of Kentucky cut off from the rest of the state. But the quakes are only PARTLY to blame. Land surveyors of the day also had their hands in it. We get this from Kentucky Tourism:
No one knows for sure why the boundary of Kentucky Bend was drawn the way that it was—perhaps early surveyors simply incorrectly assumed the course of the Mississippi. Maybe they got lost, or the new bend in the river confused them while surveying. Either way, the boundary for Kentucky was drawn completely through the Mississippi River and out the other side, creating a little bubble of land belonging to Kentucky.
Experts may never be able to pinpoint the exact cause for this geographical oddity, but no matter. Kentucky Bend is here to stay and makes for a fun and educational destination for cool little road trip...one I'm already heavily considering.