Judy Moore: The Cumberland Gap connection
Published 3:39 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Borders connect towns and states to each other and they can change over time. The states of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee are connected via The Cumberland Gap. This v-shaped geological wonder is a passage in the Appalachian Mountains that formed over three million years ago through flowing water during continental plate shifts and collisions.
The Cumberland Gap is a passageway running through the Cumberland Mountain at the Virginia-Kentucky border and it was the gateway west to south which numerous settlers used for migration and Native Americans utilized it for migration, hunting bison and deer and war time. Word spread from European hunters in the 1600s about this cut path through the Appalachian Mountains. On April 13, 1750 Thomas Walker, a physician and explorer discovered this natural wonder and after exploring a nearby cave, called it “Cave Gap”. Later, he arrived at a river north of the gap naming that “Cumberland” after the Duke of Cumberland, the son of King George II; hence the name Cumberland Gap.
The most notable pioneer who used The Cumberland Gap was Daniel Boone, who in 1775 was hired by the Transylvania Company and led a group of young men to widen the path through the Gap making it easier to settle Kentucky and Tennessee. By the 1790s the trail Mr. Boone and his group built accommodated wagon traffic and was known as The Wilderness Road. Estimations are that between two-hundred thousand and three-hundred thousand European American settlers used The Cumberland Gap to reach Kentucky and the Ohio Valley before 1810. Subsequently, in August 1863 the Union Army under the leadership of General Ambrose E. Burnside captured The Cumberland Gap with Kentucky being admitted into the Union.
Furthermore, today about one point two million visitors embark to The Cumberland Gap National Park which is over twenty thousand acres containing a variety of flora and fauna such as spiderwort, yellow lady slipper, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and cottontail rabbits.
In addition, the park has historical buildings, caves and interpretive signs including one that commemorates Daniel Boone’s passage through The Cumberland Gap. The Cumberland Gap Tunnel has the east entrance in Tennessee and the west entrance in Kentucky. It is the intersection of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, yet the tunnel misses Virginia by one thousand feet.
The natural wonder of the Cumberland Gap, although shared by Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, boasts its own unique beauty birthed by flowing water and plate collisions with the history of the pioneer spirit in Daniel Boone’s settlement and the Native American usage of the land for hunting and migration. It is truly another site that I would like to add to my ever growing list of places to visit and explore. In the United States there are numerous natural wonders to behold and we as stewards should protect that beauty which God has bestowed upon us.
Judy Moore lives in Wylliesburg, is a tour guide at the Central High Museum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.