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Licking River (kentucky)


Licking River (kentucky)

Licking River
The mouth of the Licking River, where it joins the Ohio River
Origin Magoffin County, Kentucky
Mouth Ohio River
Length 303 miles (488 km)
Avg. discharge 4,221 cu ft/s (119.5 m3/s)
Basin area 3,593 sq mi (9,310 km2)

The Licking River is a 303-mile-long (488 km)[1] tributary of the Ohio River in northeastern Kentucky in the United States. The river and its tributaries drain much of the region of northeastern Kentucky between the watersheds of the Kentucky River to the west and the Big Sandy River to the east.

Origin of name

The Licking River near the Blue Licks Battlefield State Park

The Native Americans of the area called the river Nepernine. When the explorer Dr. Thomas Walker first saw it in 1750, he called it Frederick's River. An earlier name given by hunters and frontiersmen, Great Salt Lick Creek, makes reference to the many saline springs near the river that attracted animals to its salt licks. The origin of the present name is unclear, though likely related to the previous name.[2]


Numerous aboriginal peoples inhabited the watershed for at least part of the year for several thousand years, but no tribal lands are recognized to have been displaced by European settlement. The Melungeons—a mysterious, pale Native American group— occupied points on the southern end of the river, as well as Shawnee and Cherokee tribes. Other, older settlements of unnamed groups in Bath County on Slate Creek can also be found in the region.

The river served as an important transportation route for Native Americans and early European pioneers. In the 19th century, it was an important trade route.

In 1780, during the Little Miami River.

In 1782 the river was the site of the Battle of Blue Licks.[3] The Newport Barracks in Newport guarded its mouth from 1803 to 1894.

It is currently in use by the Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club, where they practice for their national championships.


The watershed of the Licking River, with the North Fork and South Fork Licking River tributaries

The Licking River rises in the Cumberland Plateau of eastern Kentucky, in southeastern Magoffin County. It flows northwest in a highly meandering course past Salyersville and West Liberty. In Rowan County in the Daniel Boone National Forest it is impounded to form the large Cave Run Lake reservoir. Northwest of the reservoir it receives Fleming Creek approximately 8 miles (13 km) northwest of Carlisle and flows across the Bluegrass region of northern Kentucky. It receives the North Fork from the east approximately 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Mount Olivet and the South Fork from the south at Falmouth. It joins the Ohio opposite Cincinnati, where it separates the cities of Covington and Newport. The river was used as the southwestern border of the original Mason County and is the southwest border of Fleming and Rowan counties today.

Flora and fauna

The North Fork near Mays Lick

The river is considered by The Nature Conservancy work to protect the diversity of this important habitat.

The largest common carp taken in the state of Kentucky (54 lbs., 14 oz.) was caught in the South Fork of the Licking River.[4]

In 1984 Pat and Brian Mulloy of Butler caught a 79.5-pound (36.1 kg) flathead catfish in a deep hole of the Licking River near Boston. They caught it legally, using a trot line baited with small bluegill. The main stem of the Licking River boasts three sport species of catfish: the channel, blue, and flathead, found mostly in some areas closer to the Ohio. The flathead catfish caught by the Mulloys is still among the largest caught legally from the river.


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed June 13, 2011
  2. ^ Kleber, John E., ed. (1992). "Licking River". The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Associate editors:  
  3. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1996). "The WPA Guide to Kentucky". University Press of Kentucky. p. 250. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "Kentucky State Record Fish List". Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. 2006-04-17. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 

External links

  • Nature Conservancy: Licking River
  • Pre-Wisconsin Spillways along the Licking River
  • Scenes along the Licking River
  • Licking River Watershed Watch
  • U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Licking River

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