Morehead (population 8,357), the county seat of Rowan County, is located in the mountains of northeastern Kentucky. Most of the county is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest and has extensive hardwood forests.
The first settlers to the area came mostly from Virginia to claim land grants for service in the Revolutionary War. Many settled in fertile valleys along the Licking River and Triplett Creek. Morehead grew up around a sawmill, and became the county seat with the formation of Rowan County in 1856.
Morehead Normal School was founded in 1887, becoming Morehead State University in 1966. By the 1950s, tobacco had replaced corn as the county's leading farm crop. When I-64 was completed through the somewhat isolated area in 1969, some industrial growth was experienced. A boost to tourism was the 1974 impoundment of Cave Run Lake, the largest in eastern Kentucky.
Morehead is rich in historic resources. It is the home of the Kentucky Folk Art Center, housed in a renovated 1906 grocery warehouse. The Morehead Tourism Commission offers a self-guided historical walking tour, and a city welcome center is housed in a historic railroad passenger depot rehabilitated in 1997 with local funds and Transportation Enhancement assistance.
Other historic preservation projects are under development, including rehabilitation of the Old Rowan County Courthouse (1896). In June and September each year, the city and county sponsor a Bluegrass Music Festival, Storytelling Festival, Appalachian Festival, and Harvest Festival.
Designated a Preserve America Community in August 2004.