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Northern Forested Plateau Escarpment

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About the Northern Forested Plateau Escarpment

The Northern Forested Plateau Escarpment is a rugged, highly-dissected region located entirely in eastern Kentucky. This region is narrow and stretches northeast-southwest; it is transitional between the higher-elevation Ohio/Kentucky Carboniferous Plateau to the southeast, to the lower-elevation Knobs-Lower Scioto Dissected Plateau to the northwest.

This region has steep topography, with narrow valleys and ridges, cliffs, and ravines. The geology is diverse: the rugged topography is created by the combination of highly erosion-resistant top layers of quartz-rich sandstone, with more erodible limestone, shale, and siltstone underneath. There are small areas of karst topography associated with the limestone. Streams are mostly moderate-to-high gradient, but there are a few wider valleys with slower-moving streams.

This region was originally covered mostly in mixed mesophytic forest. American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was dominant on the drier sites, and slopes featured mixed oak and oak-pine forests. There were also distinct forest communities on well-drained and poorly-drained bottomland sites.

Forest composition is presumably similar to the original balance of trees, but American Chestnut has been eliminated, and some areas have been degraded by mining.

Over its length, this region is bordered to the northwest by the Knobs-Lower Scioto Dissected Plateau, and to the southeast by the Ohio/Kentucky Carboniferous Plateau.