Historical marker #2217 in Bell County discusses the Lewis & Clark Expedition through the Cumberland Gap, a break in the Appalachian Mountains that runs through Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee.
The purpose of the Expedition was to explore lands west of the Mississippi River that comprised the Louisiana Purchase. It began in 1804, when President Thomas Jefferson tasked Meriwhether Lewis and William Clark with the mission. The expedition was deemed a success and provided new geographic, ecological, and social information about previously uncharted areas of North America.
Co-leader of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Meriwether Lewis, a party of Expedition veterans, and a Mandan Native American tribe delegation, went through the Cumberland Gap in November 1806. The party was in route to Washington to report on the Expedition. In December 1806, William Clark traveled through the Gap on his way to Washington, D.C. to reunite with Lewis and to report to President Thomas Jefferson and other government officials about the journey.
Beginning in the eighteenth centry, people seeking to move west traveled through the Cumberland Gap. Before then, Native Americans used the Gap as a footpath and buffalo used it when migrating.
In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation to create Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Over the next 15 years, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia purchased more than 20,000 acres. In 1959, vice-president Richard Nixon dedicated the park. Today, the Park draws around 750,000 tourists each year.
This marker was dedicated on November 12, 2006. It reads:
Meriwether Lewis, coleader of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, with a party of Expedition veterans and a Mandan Indian delegation, went through Cumberland Gap in Nov. 1806 en route to Washington to report on the expedition. Over.
(Reverse) Expedition coleader William Clark traveled through the Gap in Dec. 1806 on his way to Washington to reunite with Lewis and to report to President Thomas Jefferson and other government officials about the journey.