Explore Ballard County

Explore Ballard County

Explore Ballard County in the most northwestern corner of Kentucky.  The Mississippi and Ohio rivers form the western and northern county boundaries.  The county has a land area of 165,760 acres or 259 square miles.  Wickliffe is the county seat.

The county is one of the eight counties that make up the Jackson Purchase physiographic region of Kentucky.  It is the youngest region in Kentucky, geologically as well as historically.  The northern and central parts of the county drain into streams that flow into the Ohio River.  The southern part drains through Mayfield Creek into the Mississippi River.

The southern part of the county is greatly dissected by natural drainageways which have narrow ridgetops and deep side slopes common to windblown silt (loess) deposits.  The central and northern part of the county has moderately sloped to near level topography.   The area is used primarily by full-time farmers and part-time farmers who derive the rest of their income from industrial or other urban employment.

The climate is a mild, temperate, humid, continental type.  Winters are short and are characterized by short cold spells, frequent sharp changes in temperature, and high humidity.  Summers are longer but hot periods are generally brief.  Precipitation is usually well distributed throughout the year with brief periods of drought occurring in the summer and excess moisture occurring in winter and spring.  The average annual precipitation is 47.19” with an average annual snowfall of 8.4”.  The average daily maximum temperature is 67.4◦F and the average daily minimum temperature is 47◦F.


Highways. U.S. highway routes 51, 60, and 62 bisect the county.  Connecting state routes complete the major roadway network with county roads completing the farm to market network.  Interstate route 24 is 14 miles east of the county; Interstate route 57 is 6 miles west, and Interstate route 55 is 12 miles west.

Air.  Barkley Regional Airport is located 10 miles east of the county line and is easily accessible via US 62 and US 60.   The airport is served by Air Illinois and Allegheny Commuter and charter and private flights.  Air Illinois and Allegheny Commuter together offer regularly schedules of flights (3 to 4 round trips per day) to Louisville KY, Memphis TN, St. Louis MO, and Evansville IN.  Emery Flight Services or Cardinal Aviation provide air freight service.  The airport is equipped with ILS navigation facilities and 6500ft runway capable of supporting B727 aircraft traffic weights.  Airport ground transportation is offered by National, Avis, and Hertz.

Water.  The north and west boundaries of the County are formed by the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.  A 9-foot channel stage is maintained affording barge transportation services.  Ballard County is at the hub of one of the greatest inland water transportation systems in the world.  Some of the contract and common carriers operating through this area via the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers include the Valley Lines, American Barge Lines, Union-Mechling Barge Lines, Southern Barge Line, Crounse Corporation, M/G transport, Federal Barge Line, SC & NO Barge Lines, and Ingert Inc.   The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, to be completed this decade, is expected to open new markets for trade in the southeast US heartland.

Rail.  Illinois Central Gulf maintains a major north/south route through the western portion of the County near Wickliffe.


Ballard County Wildlife Management Area is a waterfowl management area offering hunting, fishing, and camping.  It offers some of the best goose and duck hunting to be found anywhere in Kentucky.

Ballard County’s location, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, offers opportunities for water sports, fishing, and boating.  Four public tennis courts at Ballard Memorial High School have recently been completed.

Private recreational facilities include the Ballard County Country Club with an 18-hole golf course, tennis court, swimming pool, and 3800 sq ft club house.

Natural Resources:

The chief geologic resources within the county are sand, gravel, ground water, and clay.  Much of this potential is currently undeveloped.  The following is a short description of each resource.

Ground Water.  The plentiful supply of water in Ballard County has played an important role in the development of the county and the cities and industry within its boundaries.  Underlying the county are extensive underground reservoirs that contain large quantities of water of good quality.  Coupled with the surface water availability along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, users are provided with reliable water sources of virtually unlimited supply.  In areas where ricer access is limited or not adjacent to the river, ground water supplies of 1,000 gpm cab be obtained in most of the county.  Figure 1 shows the approximate location of groundwater potential.

Gravel.  Gravels from continental deposits of the Pleistocene geologic age are uniformly scattered throughout the county.  Many of the gravel pits have been tested for gradation and quality.  The gravels are commonly used for roadway metal, asphalt pavement base and embankment.  Select pits may be useful for production of washed pea gravel.  The compacted back gravel is a very stable embankment material commonly used as a construction material because of its cost advantage and local availability.

Sand.  Sand may be obtained from natural deposits or from river dredging operations.  The primary use of the washed river sand is fine aggregate for concrete.  Much of the deposited sand of the Eocene geologic age is clean enough after washing and grading to be suitable for fine abrasive, refractory, and filtration uses.  Some of the fine, uniformly graded sand deposits have been tested to be 97% pure silica dioxide.

Clay.  Clay deposits in the Claiborne Formation are potential sources of ceramic grade clay such as pottery, stoneware, bathroom fixtures, chimney flue tile, pressed tile, decorative tile, ivory or buff brick at cone 5, and low-grade refractories.  Kaolinite and illite, present in most samples, make up 63 to 75 percent and 4 to 31 percent, respectively, of the clay mineral fraction.  Montmorillonite in smaller amounts is usually present.  Testing of a clay deposit for specific purposes would be advisable; however, many sites are of ceramic quality and nearly all deposits exhibit permeability characteristics desirable for lagoon or landfill linings.