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Comprising a portion of Kentucky’s northern region, the Morehead Destination encompasses a fraction of Daniel Boone National Forest as well as a few cities and urban districts. The destination’s namesake, Morehead, is a city found just over an hour’s drive from one of Kentucky’s prominent cities, Lexington, which is located outside the western border of the destination. Morehead features several historical sites, shops, and attractions that may pique the interest of visitors. In 2022, the Downtown Morehead Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city also contains Morehead State University, an institution that was associated with a fairly momentous event called the Rowan County War. For those who enjoy outdoor recreation, Morehead is found in proximity to Cave Run Lake in Daniel Boone National Forest. Fishing, boating, hiking, camping, hunting, swimming, and wildlife viewing are some of the pastimes that visitors can undertake at Cave Run Lake. People who have previously explored Morehead and its surrounding attractions have recommended that future visitors come between mid-June and mid-July or mid-July and late September if they plan on engaging in warm-weather activities. The average daily high temperature generally rests around 76 degrees Fahrenheit throughout these months.
The Morehead Destination is found in the northern region of Kentucky, encompassing several cities, townships, and natural areas. The Ohio River serves as the northern border of the destination, while the east, south, and west are bounded by other parts of the state. Situated in the heart of the destination is the city of Morehead, the namesake, which is home to an estimated population of 7,047 residents as of 2023. Since the most recent census in 2020, Morehead’s population has grown by 0.73%, increasing from 6,996 people to its present total. The annual growth rate is reportedly 0.24%.
While Morehead is a relatively urban location, the vicinity becomes comparatively natural and rural near the outskirts of the city. Morehead is the seat of Rowan County and covers approximately 9.72 square miles of land. Notably, the city is located in Daniel Boone National Forest. As such, outdoor recreation is considered a fairly popular attraction among those who visit the city. The Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail starts in Morehead and winds through the city’s main street. In addition to this walking trail, tourists can go on fishing excursions, kayak, or visit the Eagle Trace Golf Course. Morehead also features several museums and historical sites, namely the Morehead History and Railroad Museum, Rowan County Veterans Museum, Freedom Park, Haldeman Museum, and Cora Wilson Stewart Moonlight School. Morehead State University also bears historical significance, as it dates back to 1922 when it was founded as a state teacher's college. The campus was established on the site of a former private denominational school, which originally opened in 1887. Beyond the historical sites, it should also be noted that a handful of local bakeries, pizzerias, bars, and restaurants that serve a wide range of cuisines can be found throughout Morehead.
A particularly significant characteristic of Morehead is Cave Run Lake, which had a major influence on the tourism industry in the 1960s and 1970s when hiking trails were first created around the lake. Maintenance of these trails is still currently taking place to preserve them, though cyclists and horseback riders have faced difficulties when crossing the trail. Officials intend to address these issues in an effort to assist those who desire to bike or go horseback riding around Cave Run Lake. The lake covers approximately 8,270 acres, and it tends to be frequented by those who enjoy boating, fishing, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, and hunting. A total of 12 ramps for boat launching are available at Cave Run Lake. For those who plan on camping, the Twin Knobs and Zilpo campgrounds offer about 400 campsites, some of which are equipped with RV hookups. Campers are additionally given access to group-use picnic areas and beaches along the shore of the lake.
Woodlands and hills are the primary components of the Morehead Destination’s topography as a whole. The destination’s namesake itself is established among forested hills and natural land—situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. A few townships and cities are scattered throughout the Morehead Destination as well, including Flemingsburg, Grayson, Mount Sterling, Carlisle, Cynthiana, Owingsville, Frenchburg, Sandy Hook, and Olive Hill, to name a few. The northern border of the destination is aligned with the Ohio River that divides the states of Kentucky and Ohio.
A few rivers and lakes are found within the destination. The Triplett Creek courses directly through the city of Morehead, flowing west toward Lexington until a confluence is formed with the Licking River. To the east, Grayson Lake extends near the city of Grayson. The largest lake in the Morehead Destination, however, is Cave Run Lake, located in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Cave Run Lake serves as the home for multiple species of fish, such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, musky, and pan fish. Aside from fish, Daniel Boone National Forest is also inhabited by elk, black bears, eagles, and peregrine falcons, among other wildlife.
Temperatures range from 27 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit in Morehead over the course of the year. May to September is considered the warm season, as the daily high temperature reaches above 76 degrees Fahrenheit on average. Weather Spark’s tourism score suggests that for those who plan on engaging in warm-weather activities, mid-June to mid-July and mid-July to late September are deemed “the best times of year to visit Morehead.” The city’s summer season is described as “warm and humid,” in contrast to the winter season, which is characterized as “short, cold, and wet.” Generally speaking, the cold season lasts from November through February, and the average daily high temperature drops to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit during this period of time. January is typically the coldest month of the year, as temperatures vary between 28 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
Following the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War in 1783, Rowan County received its first European settlers. Morehead had become the third community that was settled in the county by 1854. To commemorate James T. Morehead—who assumed the role of Kentucky’s governor from 1834 to 1836—the city was named after this politician. Morehead was appointed the county seat of Rowan County due to its central location. In 1869, Morehead was officially incorporated.
The aforementioned Morehead State University is a historically significant site in the city. Originally known as Morehead Normal School, its doors were first opened to the general public in 1887. In the fall of 1923, the institution received its first students who graduated the school’s first class in 1927. One year prior to their graduation, however, the name was changed to Morehead Normal School and Teachers College, and in 1930, it was then referred to as Morehead State Teachers College. It wasn’t until 1966 that the school gained university status, hence its current title. With the intent to ensure economic development, the city began to invest heavily in the progression of Morehead State University. The university became “the largest employer in the city” by 1990.
From a historical standpoint, the city of Morehead became well known for a prominent event known as the Rowan County War (also referred to as the Martin-Tolliver Feud). The war began on an election day on August 4th, 1884, when John Martin drew his pistol at the polls during a political argument. In response, several others did the same. A man named Floyd Tolliver, accompanied by Sheriff John C. Day, arrived, and they were met with several rocks that were thrown at them from both sides of the debate. Tension grew until, finally, a pistol was shot, and all attendees broke out into a gun battle. John Martin and Floyd Tolliver were indicted for manslaughter, as it was unclear who made the first shot. In December 1884, the matter was to be settled in court. However, both John and Floyd encountered each other in Winchester, and Martin killed Tolliver. Eventually, Martin was killed as well by Tolliver’s supporters. Even after the two had died, violence over the feud continued throughout the 19th century. Following the war’s conclusion in 1887, the townsfolk that resided in the county at the time decided to construct Morehead Normal School in an attempt to redeem the city’s reputation. Eventually, the Martin and Tolliver families reconciled, as descendants of both families—Grace Martin and Frank Tolliver—were married. The press often nicknamed the two families “the Capulets and the Montagues.”