Cumberland Gap

Historical marker #2217 at Cumberland Gap commemorates the exploits of famed explorers Lewis and Clark, who passed through the Cumberland Gap in 1806. This marker also serves as a reminder for Boone Trace, which traversed this section of the Appalachian Mountains during the epic journey of Daniel Boone and his group of trailblazers. During March and April 1775, thirty-one years prior to Lewis and Clark, Boone and his men marked the first road into what was to become Kentucky.

Boone Trace is of great historical significance to the founding of Kentucky and the opening of the American West. The Warrior's Path (a Native American byway) and the Wilderness Road, which evolved from Boone Trace, both utilized the natural route that the Cumberland Gap provided as well. Boone Trace began at Long Island on the Holston River (present day Kingsport, Tennessee), ran across a portion of southwest Virginia, and then went through the Cumberland Gap. Boone Trace then turned north and proceeded on to Boonesborough, where a fort was established for protection against Native American attacks.

Colonel Richard Henderson, founder of the Transylvania Land Company, hired Daniel Boone to open the road. Henderson's intention was to use the road to bring settlers in; he would then sell them land which he had acquired from the Cherokee Indians during the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals. Although the anticipated profit was never achieved, the effect of Boone Trace on history was that it provided a proven example that the Appalachian Mountains could be traversed, the wilderness could be tamed, and that western lands were available for those willing to make the attempt.

Therefore, one might say that the spirit of American western expansion—to conceive a dream of opportunity, seek it, and achieve it—was born in part because of Boone Trace. History was changed with the opening of the trail as evidenced by the fact that thousands of settlers soon followed Boone through the Cumberland Gap, and eventually established Kentucky as a state in 1792, just seventeen years after the path was blazed.

Images

Cumberland Gap Looking North

Cumberland Gap Looking North

One of the best views of Cumberland Gap can be observed from the south side of the Gap, which cab be reached by traveling south on US 25E through the tunnel and turning east on Highway 58. Courtesy of Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. View File Details Page

Saddle of Cumberland Gap

Saddle of Cumberland Gap

At the National Park, it is strongly encouraged to take a path to the "saddle of the gap." The saddle is the lowest point of the gap and was traversed by thousands of settlers who came through on their way to a new life in what would become Kentucky. Courtesy of Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. View File Details Page

Boone Trace

Boone Trace

Passing through the tunnel on US 25E south into Tennessee and then turning east on Highway 58, the south side of Cumberland Gap can be visited. There, a portion of the original Boone Trace can be walked. Courtesy of Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. View File Details Page

Pinnacle at Cumberland Gap

Pinnacle at Cumberland Gap

The Pinnacle is another feature of the National Park that can be experienced. After a switch-back drive up the mountain, the Cumberland Gap and Boone Trace can be viewed from a spectacular overlook. This picture shows Middlesboro, Kentucky, at night from the Pinnacle. Three states that come together can also be seen from this site: Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Courtesy of Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. View File Details Page

Cumberland Gap

Cumberland Gap

From this sign, travelers can proceed south on US 25E a short distance to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Visitor's Center, where exhibits, a theater, and gift shop can be visited and park rangers are available for interpretation. Courtesy of Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. View File Details Page

Cumberland Gap D.A.R. Monument

Cumberland Gap D.A.R. Monument

In1915, the Daughters of the American Revolution completed their three-year project of marking their commemorative route, “Daniel Boone™s Trail,” from North Carolina to Kentucky. On June 30, they dedicated a joint monument at historic Cumberland Gap. A plaque from each of the four states participating in the project: North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky, was mounted on one of the faces. The truncated pyramid seen today is not the monument built by the D.A.R. in 1915, but a replacement built in 1929 to accommodate road construction through the gap. (Cumberland Gap National Historical Park was founded in 1959.) Courtesy of Randell Jones, www.danielboonefootsteps.com View File Details Page

States Cornerstone

States Cornerstone

This cornerstone marks the location at Cumberland Gap where Kentucky, Tenneseee, and Virginia meet. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cumberland Gap

Cumberland Gap

This lithograph, printed in the 1870s, show a perhaps exaggerated view of the formidable terrain that early explorers encountered as they passed through the Cumberland Gap. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cumberland Gap, 1862

Cumberland Gap, 1862

The reasons early settlers used the Cumberland Gap also made it attractive to the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Friends of Boone Trace, Inc., “Cumberland Gap,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed May 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/405.

Related Tours

Subjects

Tour navigation:  Tour Info | Next

Share this Story