Naming of the Cumberland River

Historical Marker #2045 in Bell County commemorates the exploits of Dr. Thomas Walker, who preceded Daniel Boone and other early explorers to this region.

In 1750, Walker named the Cumberland River for Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II. This marker also represents a section of Boone Trace, the first road blazed into what was to become Kentucky. Boone Trace was cut by Daniel Boone and his party during March and April of 1775.

At this location, named "The Narrows," the Cumberland River forms a "water gap" through Pine Mountain. Much like the nearby Cumberland Gap, a "land gap" in the Cumberland Mountains, the Narrows allowed early explorers a naturally created byway through the rugged terrain. Pioneer explorers found these natural passes to their advantage by utilizing them as a path of least resistance, much like the animals and Native Americans that came before them.

Boone Trace, and the Wilderness Road, which later evolved out of Boone Trace, passed through the Narrows along with the Warrior's Path. The Warrior's Path was an ancient route that Native Americans used to wage war against neighboring and distant tribes. These three early pathways continued northward essentially together to Flat Lick, where they diverged.

At The Narrows, pioneer travelers crossed the Cumberland River at Cumberland Ford, located near the present day intersection of Highway 66 and US 25E in Pineville, Kentucky. Passing from the west side of the river to the east side, settlers continued on their long journey to the Bluegrass Region and a new life. During the early days, the route through this area consisted of a bridle path only large enough to accommodate horses. Not even small wagons could pass. However, in this area the trail was fairly well traveled and not too difficult to follow and mark. The farther early travelers went north from this point—until they left the mountain region and entered the Bluegrass—the trail was much more difficult.

A short distance south of this marker, "The Narrows Overlook" provides today's travelers a spectacular elevated view of The Narrows. It requires a somewhat arduous 0.5 mile switchback climb up the mountain.

Images

The Narrows

The Narrows

This photograph provides a view from the Narrows Overlook showing the course of the Cumberland River down in the valley through the mountains. Courtesy of Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. View File Details Page

The Narrows Overlook

The Narrows Overlook

This view of the Cumberland River valley is from the Narrows Overlook. Courtesy of Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. View File Details Page

Cumberland Gap

Cumberland Gap

The Cumberland Gap and Cumberland River were named by Dr. Thomas Walker. They honored Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland, the son of King George II. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cumberland River Valley

Cumberland River Valley

This late-nineteenth century photograph shows the narrow Cumberland River Valley at Pineville, Kentucky. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Friends of Boone Trace, Inc., “Naming of the Cumberland River,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed May 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/412.

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