A long, long time ago…
Eagle Creek Turns
Before the last glacier, geologists tell us that the Ohio, Licking, and Kentucky Rivers took a much different path than they do today.
In short, there was no Ohio River as we know it today. Both above Maysville (near Manchester, Ohio) and below Milton (below Madison, Indiana) the Ohio River simply didn’t exist. There was land then, where there is an Ohio River today.
The Kentucky and the Licking both flowed northerly, except they went further north than they now do.
There was a stream that flowed northwest from Manchester, Ohio, just above Maysville, following pretty much the course of today’s Ohio, but it was a much smaller stream. It’s called the Manchester River in the geological literature, and it ran into the Little Miami and then into the Licking, at about the site of the Cincinnati suburb Carthage today. There was also a small stream, where the Ohio River is today, that ran from southwest of Madison, Indiana, northerly, toward Carrollton, where it flowed into the bigger Kentucky River.
The Kentucky River flowed north at Carrollton. It turned northeast and joined what is now the Ohio River about three miles above Carrollton, not at today’s confluence. (See two maps at left). At that time, however, the stream you and I know as the Kentucky River flowed north from Carrollton, pretty much following today’s Ohio River Valley past Gallatin and Boone Counties and then heading further north, up what you and I know as the Great Miami, and not on to Cincinnati.
The Great Miami is simply too small a river to have made a valley as big as the Great Miami's current valley. The Kentucky River did it. You can see it: (click to enlarge)
You can see where the Licking valley goes north, and you can see where the Kentucky River, when it got to the top of Boone County, went on north.
The Manchester River flowed into the Licking, and the Licking went north, following closely to what is now the Mill Creek Valley as far as Hamilton, where it joined the Kentucky River.
Eagle Creek, which flows northerly in Grant County, but westerly along the Gallatin, Owen and Carroll County lines, went north into the then Kentucky River (now the Ohio) at what is now the great Sugar Creek Bend in Gallatin County. See the map at left.
And the Kentucky River eventually emptied into the prehistoric Teays River, way north in Ohio, where it flowed west. Today, the Wabash River takes a similar path.
The maps in the left column are all from small pamphlets published by Willard Rouse Jillson, Kentucky State Geologist, and each pamphlet comes with a full textual explanation of the maps, and a bibliography for further reading which we have not reproduced. The title of the drawing is also the title of the booklet. Your public librarian should be able to get them for you through interlibary loan - they were more than we wanted to type, and, frankly, more geology than we really cared to know.