Clay county is in the Eastern Coal Field region of Kentucky. The elevation in the county ranges from 690 to 2235 feet above sea level.
It was formed in 1807 from Floyd, Knox, and Madison counties. The county seat is Manchester. Clay county was a source of Perry (1821), Laurel (1826), Breathitt (1839), Owsley (1843), Jackson (1858), and Leslie (1878) counties.
In 2020 the county population was 20,345 in a land area of 469.25 square miles, an average of 43.4 people per square mile.
The equine population was 600 in the 2012 Kentucky Equine Survey.
Clay county is in the London micro statistical area and the Cumberland Valley Area Development District. It is in the Appalachian region according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Clay county was named for General Green Clay.
Much of Clay county lies within the Daniel Boone National Forest.
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