The Eastern Mountain Coal Fields is part of the Central Appalachian bituminous coal field region, including all or parts of 30 Kentucky counties and adjoining areas in Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee. It covers an area from the Allegheny Mountains in the east across the Cumberland Plateau and the Pottsville Escarpment in the west. The region is known for its coal mining; most family farms in the region have disappeared since the introduction of surface mining in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Daniel Boone National Forest is located here in rough but beautiful terrain, along and east of the Pottsville Escarpment. There are many natural arches and sandstone cliffs that are excellent for rock climbing and rappeling. The Red River Gorge, part of the National Forest, is known worldwide in rock climbing circles.
The Sheltowee Trace Trail runs 420–430 km north and south through the region.
During the American Civil War most of this region leaned toward the Union due to its makeup at the time of mostly small farmers, but more than 2,000 men from this area formed the 5th. Kentucky Vol. Inf., known as the Army of Eastern Kentucky, under Gen. Humphrey Marshall, C.S.A.
Eastern Kentucky has a rich musical heritage. A large number of nationally acclaimed country music singers and musicians are from the area. These include: Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam, Tom T. Hall, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jean Ritchie, and George S. Davis.
The Eastern Mountain Coal Fields Region covers 31 counties with a combined land area of 13,370 sq mi (34,628 km²), or about 33.1 percent of the state's land area. Its 2000 census population was 734,194 inhabitants, or about 18.2 percent of the state's population. The largest city, Ashland, has a population of 21,981. Other cities of significance in the region include Pikeville, Corbin, and Middlesboro. The state's highest point, Black Mountain, is located in the southeastern part of the region in Harlan County.
Major cities 
|5||Corbin||7,304||Whitley and Knox|
Protected areas 
Historical parks 
State resort parks 
- Greenbo Lake State Resort Park
- Benham-Lynch State Resort Park
- Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park
- Carter Caves State Resort Park
- Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
- Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
- Natural Bridge State Resort Park
- Pine Mountain State Resort Park
State recreational parks 
- Grayson Lake State Park
- Yatesville Lake State Park
- Paintsville Lake State Park
- Fishtrap Lake State Park
- Carr Creek State Park
- Kingdom Come State Park
- Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail
- Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park
The region's economy is centered around the vast amount of natural resources available, which includes coal, timber, natural gas, and oil. Recently, tourism has became a leading industry in the region, due to the region's unique cultural history and the creation of state parks.
Appalachian Regional Commission 
The Appalachian Regional Commission was formed in 1965 to aide economic development in the Appalachian region, which was lagging far behind the rest of the nation on most economic indicators. The Appalachian region currently defined by the Commission includes 420 counties in 13 states, including all counties in Kentucky's Eastern Mountain Coal Field region. The Commission gives each county one of five possible economic designations—distressed, at-risk, transitional, competitive, or attainment—with "distressed" counties being the most economically endangered and "attainment" counties being the most economically prosperous. These designations are based primarily on three indicators—three-year average unemployment rate, market income per capita, and poverty rate.
From 2008-2010, "Appalachian" Kentucky—which includes all of the Eastern Mountain Coal Fields and the easternmost counties in South Central Kentucky and the Bluegrass region—had a three-year average unemployment rate of 10.2%, compared with 9.3% statewide and 8.2% nationwide. In 2009, Appalachian Kentucky had a per capita market income of $16,768, compared with $24,541 statewide and $32,691 nationwide. From 2006-2010, Appalachian Kentucky had an average poverty rate of 24.4%—the highest of any of the ARC regions—, compared to 17.7% statewide and 13.8% nationwide. Twenty-five Eastern Mountain Coal Field counties—Bell, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliot, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Knott, Knox, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Rowan, Whitley, and Wolfe—were designated "distressed," while four—Johnson, Laurel, Montgomery, and Pike—were designated "at-risk." Two Eastern Mountain Coal Field counties were designated "transitional"—Boyd and Greenup. No counties in the Eastern Mountain Coal Fields region were given the "attainment" designation or were designated "competitive."
The following table illustrates the economic status of each county.
|County||Population (2010)||Unemployment Rate (2011)||Per Capita
Market Income (2010)
|Poverty Rate (2007-11)||Status (2013)|
Post-secondary education 
Public universities 
Private colleges and universities 
- Alice Lloyd College
- Clear Creek Baptist Bible College
- Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing
- Kentucky Christian University
- Kentucky Mountain Bible College
- University of Pikeville
- Union College
- University of the Cumberlands
Community and technical colleges 
- Ashland Community and Technical College
- Big Sandy Community and Technical College
- Hazard Community and Technical College
- Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College
Notable residents 
- Hylo Brown, bluegrass and country music singer, born in River.
- June Buchanan (1887–1988), educator who worked with Alice Spencer Geddes Lloyd (see below). Co-founder of Caney Junior College, now Alice Lloyd College. Lived in Knott County from 1919 until her death.
- Earle Combs (1899–1976), Hall of Fame MLB center fielder for the New York Yankees. Born in Pebworth, a community in Owsley County.
- Tim Couch, former NFL quarterback. Born and raised in Hyden.
- Billy Ray Cyrus (born 1961), American country music singer, songwriter and actor. Born in Flatwoods.
- Richie Farmer (born 1969), basketball standout for the University of Kentucky and politician (Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, 2003–2011). Born and raised in Manchester.
- Jim Ford, singer-songwriter, born in Johnson County.
- Mary Elliott Flanery, first woman elected to a state legislature south of the Mason Dixon Line.
- Crystal Gayle, country singer and younger sister of Loretta Lynn; both raised in Van Lear.
- Eula Hall, Founder of the Mud Creek Clinic.
- Roscoe Holcomb, American musician who lived the majority of his life in Daisy.
- Silas House (born 1971), author. Born and raised in Laurel County; also lived in Leslie County during his childhood.
- The Judds, a country music duo of mother Naomi (born 1946) and daughter Wynonna (born 1964). Born in Ashland.
- Ashley Judd (born 1968), actress; daughter of Naomi Judd and half-sister of Wynonna Judd. Born in Ashland.
- Alice Spencer Geddes Lloyd (1876–1962), social reformer who founded 100 elementary schools in the region as well as co-founding the college that now bears her name. Lived in Knott County from 1915 until her death.
- Patty Loveless, country music singer. Born in Pikeville.
- Loretta Lynn, country singer, raised in Van Lear.
- John Pelphrey (born 1968), basketball standout for the University of Kentucky (and teammate of Farmer); former head basketball coach at the University of Arkansas, and current assistant at the University of Florida. Born in Paintsville.
- Francis Gary Powers (August 17, 1929 – August 1, 1977) was an American pilot whose CIA U-2 spy plane was shot down while over the Soviet Union, causing the 1960 U-2 incident. Born in Jenkins.
- Venus Ramey, Miss America, 1944. Born in Ashland.
- Jeff Sheppard (born 1974), University of Kentucky basketball star (1998 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player) and former player in the NBA and several European leagues. Has lived in London since he retired from play.
- Benjamin F. Stapleton, Mayor of Denver, Colorado between (1923–1931) and (1935–1947). Born in Paintsville.
- Gary Stewart, Country music singer and musician, 1944–2003, born in Jenkins.
- Jesse Stuart, author and former poet laureate of Kentucky
- Dwight Yoakam (born 1956), singer-songwriter, actor and film director. Born in Pikeville.
See also 
- Eastern Mountain Coal Fields Retrieved on 2010-1-30
- "EPA County FIPS Code Listing". EPA. Retrieved 2007-04-09.
- National Association of Counties. "NACo – Find a county". Retrieved 2007-07-22.
- "Montgomery County, Kentucky Genealogy". Kentucky Comprehensive Genealogy Database. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- Population Change and Ranks 2000-2010 United States Census Bureau. Retrieved on 2013-01-06
- Appalachian Regional Commission Online Resource Center. ARC. Retrieved: 2010-07-20.
- County Economic Status, Fiscal Year 2013: Appalachian Kentucky Appalachian Regional Commission. Retrieved on 2013-05-20
- Census Population Change, 2000–2010: Appalachian Kentucky Appalachian Regional Commission. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- Unemployment Rates, 2011: Appalachian Kentucky Appalachian Regional Commission. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- Personal Income Rates, 2010: Appalachian Kentucky Appalachian Regional Commission. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
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