A simple question…what is the westernmost spot in Kentucky?
As Western Kentuckians, it’s perhaps a question we all should be able to answer, so if you know the answer, please forgive the following geography lesson or simply ignore us from this point.
But if you don’t (or you think you might, but you’re not quite sure), keep reading. The answer may surprise you.
Paducahans, naturally and rightfully, consider themselves Western Kentuckians, but even the most geographically-impaired among us knows that neither our fair city nor our fair county constitute the western border of our state. One must travel farther, so driving straight west out of McCracken County and one passes into Ballard County, and one can’t drive any farther than that without splashing into the mighty Mississippi.
So, does that mean our westernmost spot is someplace in Ballard County? Perhaps you recall passing through Wickliffe before crossing the bridge into Missouri or maybe you’ve visited Ballard State Waterfowl Management Area.
If you guessed either of these places, however, you’d be wrong. One must then travel south into our state’s other three counties that border the Mississippi River.
o, is our westernmost spot in Carlisle County, somewhere beyond Forked Lake? Nope.
How about in Hickman County around Columbus-Belmont State Park? Nope.
That leaves one county left…Fulton, and indeed, Kentucky’s westernmost point does technically lie in Fulton County. A cursory look at the provided Kentucky map shows the bottom left hand corner of the Fulton County following the shape of the river and coSwlicking into the state of Missouri.
Well, not quite.
Look at the provided map again. See that little blip to the side? That little bubble, if you will? That’s not a slip of the cartographer’s pen. That bit of land, though completely detached from the rest of the state, is Kentucky’s westernmost point.
Affectionately called Bubbleland (but also knows as Kentucky Bend or New Madrid Bend), this `17.5 square mile patch of land, this island of Kentuckiness, lies within an oxbow loop of the Mississippi River and is completely surrounded on all sides by Missouri and Tennessee, technically making it an exclave of the state. The only road in and out of the area goes through Tiptonville, Tennessee, and the residents who live in Bubbleland all have postal addresses in Tiptonville. But they are Kentucky residents, and come voting time, they must travel the forty miles to Hickman in Fulton County to cast their ballots.
The loop in the river which created this anomaly was the result of New Madrid Earthquakes of 1812, still the most powerful earthquake to hit the eastern United States, so powerful that it rang church bells in Boston. Because of the quakes, the Mississippi flowed backwards for a brief period, waterfalls were created, and the river changed its meander which perplexed surveyors who were attempting to draw borderlines. Though ownership of the land was originally disputed by Tennesseans, it has always been part of the state of Kentucky.
At one point in its history, because of its rich soil, Bubbleland boasted a population of over 300. As of the 2000 census, however, only 17 souls lived there.
To learn more about geographic oddities, visit us in Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. And this post wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to our cohorts at the Fulton County Public Library who take their bookmobile to the residents of Bubbleland on a regular basis.