The species diversity of North American freshwater fishes is unparalleled among temperate regions of the planet. This diversity is concentrated in the Central Highlands of eastern North America and this distribution pattern has inspired different models involving either dispersal or vicariance to explain the high species diversity of North American fishes. The most popular of these models is the Central Highlands vicariance hypothesis (CHVH), which proposes an ancient and diverse widespread fauna that existed across a previously continuous highland landscape that is much different from today. The mechanisms of isolation in the CHVH involve specific instances of vicariance that affected several diverse lineages of Central Highlands fishes. We tested predictions of the CHVH and alternative models using a cytochrome b-inferred phylogeny of the darter clade Nothonotus. A Bayesian mixed-model method was used for phylogenetic analysis. The phylogenetic data set included all 20 recognized Nothonotus species, and most species were represented with multiple sequences. We were able to convert genetic branch lengths to absolute age using external fossil calibrations in the freshwater perciform fish clade Centrarchidae. Using a well-resolved Nothonotus phylogeny and divergence time estimates, we identify equal numbers of instances of both vicariance and dispersal among disjunct regions of the Central Highlands, biogeographic pseudocongruence, rather recent speciation in Nothonotus, and a surprisingly large amount of speciation within highland areas. With regard to Nothonotus, previous Central Highlands biogeographic models offer little in the way of providing possible mechanisms responsible for diversification in the clade. Patterns of speciation in Nothonotus are similar to those discovered in recent efforts that have included speciation as a parameter into classic models of island biogeography.