The 7 States That Border Kentucky

Written by Micky Moran
Published: February 12, 2024
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With 4.5 million residents, Kentucky has thousands of farms, acres of lush and green landscape, and an abundance of bluegrass music. Traveling through Kentucky is a unique path because it shares a border with so many different states. While it doesn’t reach as many states as Tennessee or Missouri (which border 8 states), it falls shortly below. Kentucky currently shares a border with 7 states – Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri. Take a look below to learn more about Kentucky’s neighboring states.

Kentucky Shares A 110-Mile Border With Illinois

Chicago skyline aerial drone view from above, lake Michigan and city of Chicago downtown skyscrapers cityscape bird's view from park, Illinois, USA

The shared border between Kentucky and Illinois is to the north, following the Ohio River.


One of the northernmost states that share a border with Kentucky is Illinois. With about 110 miles of their borders connecting them, the nearest body of water is the Ohio River. While it is more on the Illinois side, it almost perfectly marks the separating line between these two states. Illinois has 3 main geographical regions, marking the connection between the Great Lakes and the Great Plains.

Illinois is home to over 12 million people with an average income of $34,489 as of 2020. With an average value of $247,928 for each home, this state is known for its affordability and abundance of housing.

Kentucky Shares A 250-Mile Border With Indiana

Aerial Lakeside Park gardens and fountains with distant downtown Fort Wayne

Indiana connects to Kentucky to the northern area of the state.

©Nicholas J Klein/

The point that Indiana and Kentucky share their borders happens near Boone County (KY) and Lawrenceburg Township (IN). One of the notable roads that separates them is Interstate 275, which starts off the border. Even though the complete distance is much less, the winding and varied road along the 250-mile border makes it quite a drive.

Indiana’s 6.8 million residents help mark one of the most divisive places in the culture between the northern and southern states. They have been a major point of historical development and farming culture. Still, if you want to visit the Indy 500, you will need to go north.

Kentucky Shares A 159-Mile Border With Ohio

Columbus, Ohio, USA skyline on the river at dusk.

Like Indiana and Illinois, Kentucky’s northern border touches Ohio as well.

©Sean Pavone/

The border between Ohio and Kentucky comes with a lot of conflict, taking almost 200 years to end officially. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court had to get involved, determining where the border would line up for Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. At the time, the revenue from any of the Ohio River’s fishing, boating, and other licenses went to Kentucky.

The other two states argued that the boundary existed in the middle of the river since the levels rose since Kentucky became a state. After the ruling decided on the water levels, the states had to reach an agreement, which led to great variations in where the boundary is today.

Kentucky Shares A 103-Mile Border With West Virginia

Charleston, West Virginia, USA skyline at twilight.

If you want to reach the shared border with West Virginia, drive to the northeast edge of Kentucky.

©Sean Pavone/

In 1799, commissioners established the boundary between West Virginia and Kentucky when the latter petitioned to become an independent state. However, the exact line that separates them is still not specified conclusively. Marked by the Big Sandy and Tug Fork rivers, the actual boundary is somewhere in the middle.

West Virginia became an official state in 1863, and it now is the home of 1.783 million people. Taking a drive to this state comes with plenty of historical places to visit, including the New River Gorge Bridge and multiple state museums. With a heavy focus on mineral resources, West Virginia’s economy doesn’t rank as high as other states.

Kentucky Shares A 121-Mile Border With Virginia

Norfolk, Virginia, USA downtown city skyline from over the Elizabeth River at dusk.

Kentucky touches Virginia along its eastern border.

©Sean Pavone/

As you reach the southeastern side of Virginia, you see the 121-mile border that it shares with Kentucky. Part of this border touches the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and the Appalachian Mountains. You can even visit the Birch Knob Observation Tower along the border.

With a population of 8.6 million people, the median household income is $87,249, adding to their thriving economy. People who travel through or in Virginia bring $83 million into the economy every day. In 2021 alone, they had 42.2 million overnight travelers stop in. With some of the top attractions and landmarks in the country – like the Shenandoah National Park and Busch Gardens – it welcomes visitors with a rich landscape and a variety of recreational activities.

Kentucky Shares A 225-Mile Border With Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee, USA downtown city skyline on the Cumberland River.

The shared border is longer than the line between Tennessee and Kentucky and separates the latter from Indiana.

©Sean Pavone/

Marking much of the boundary between Kentucky and Tennessee is the Tennessee River. Both of these states feature mountains to the east and are about the same size, but Tennessee has a higher population. With nearly 7 million residents, the Volunteer State primarily produces corn, cotton, tobacco, and wheat. Often referred to as the capital of country music, this state has the 15th highest population in the country.

Kentucky Shares A 96-Mile Border With Missouri

Kansas City skyline by night, viewed from Liberty Memorial Park, near Union Station. Kansas City is the largest city in Missouri.

If you drive west, you will eventually reach the shared border between Kentucky and Missouri.


The Mississippi River separates Missouri from Kentucky. While there are plenty of states separated by rivers, these two locations are the only ones in the country that have no road or even a bridge to travel between them. To get from one to the other, you have to go to Hickman (KY) or Dorena (MO) to ride the ferry, but it is only available during the day.

Missouri is home to 6.2 million residents and has the 21st largest land area in the country. Its most popular agricultural contributions include rice, eggs, beef, pork, dairy, and soybeans. It has 108,000 farms, which is the most of any state in the country except Texas.

States That Border Kentucky: A Summary

StateLength of shared border
Illinois110 miles
Indiana250 miles
Ohio159 miles
West Virginia103 miles
Virginia121 miles
Tennessee225 miles
Mississippi96 miles

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alexander Lukatskiy/

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About the Author

Micky Moran is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering mammals, travel, marine life, and geography. He has been writing and researching animals and nature for over 5 years. A resident of Arizona, he enjoys spending time with family, going on adventures across the United States with his wife and kids by his side.

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