The 10 Longest Rivers in Kentucky

The Cumberland River in Kentucky.
The Cumberland River in Kentucky.

Interestingly, all the rivers located within Kentucky eventually flow into the great Mississippi River. All of them are said to flow into the Mississippi River because almost all of them flow to the Ohio River which is a major tributary of the considerably larger Mississippi River. Those that don’t go through the Ohio River eventually find a way to the Mississippi.

The 10 Longest Rivers In Kentucky

In terms of rivers that pass through Kentucky, the longest river is the Mississippi River with an enormous length of 2,320 miles. In the second position, the Ohio River comes in with a length of 981 miles while the Cumberland River is third with an approximate length of 688 miles. Closing the top five is the Tennessee River in fourth and the Green River in fifth with approximate lengths of 652 miles and 384 miles respectively. The Tug Fork is tenth with a shorter length of only 159 miles.

Mississippi River

The Mississippi is a massive river that flows entirely within the US although its drainage basin extends all the way to Canada. With a massive length of 2,320 miles, it flows through the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Illinois. Compared to the second longest river, the Ohio River, the Mississippi is almost three times as long.

Green River

The Green River of Kentucky is the longest river in Kentucky that originates and ends entirely within the state. With a length of about 384 miles, it is considerably smaller (about six times shorter) than the Mississippi and is also a tributary of the Ohio River. The river originates in Kentucky’s Kings Mountain, passes through the Mammoth Cave National Park, and links up with the Ohio River at Evansville in Indiana. The name was set in honor of General Nathanael Greene of the American Revolutionary War.

Cumberland River

The Cumberland River also begins and ends in the state of Kentucky but it flows through Tennessee as well. The considerable length of 688 miles is responsible for the drainage of an area with a size of about 18,000 square miles in both Kentucky and Tennessee. The Cumberland River starts at the Appalachian Mountains and then, close to Celina, snakes into Tennessee. Finally, it flows back to Kentucky at a section of land that is known as the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Joinery with the Ohio River happens at Smithland.

Tug Fork

The Tug Fork River is the shortest in this list with a small length of about 159 miles. The Tug Fork originates in the Appalachian Mountains and flows through Welch and all the way to Kentucky’s Levisa Fork at Louisa. At the endpoint, it joins up with the Big Sandy River which, in turn, joins up with the Ohio River and eventually drain into the Mississippi River.

The Kentucky River

Sharing a name with the state, the Kentucky River has a length of about 260 miles and is seventh on this list. Much of the central region of Kentucky attributes its drainage and water needs to this river and its tributaries.

The 10 Longest Rivers in Kentucky

RankRiverLength (miles)Length (km)
1Mississippi River 2,3203,730
2Ohio River9811,579
3Cumberland River6881,107
4Tennessee River6521,049
5Green River384618
6Licking River303488
7Kentucky River260420
8North Fork Kentucky River168270
9Levisa Fork164264
10Tug Fork 159256

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