Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

June 2003

The Cumberland Gap from the overlook. Daniel Boone would have loved these freeways to travel through the Gap.


From Maine to Georgia the Appalachian Mountains rose like a giant wall, protecting the American colonies from their enemies: the French in Canada and American Indians to the west. Land transportation was primitive, and the nearly trackless mountains that offered security to the colonists also kept the growing population confined along the eastern seaboard. In 1750 the first white explorers came upon the gap. Thomas Walker had an 800,000 acre grant beyond the mountains of the Blue Ridge. They returned after two months of searching. They had not found the Kentucky bluegrass. In 1775 after the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, Daniel Boone and 30 men marked out the Wilderness Trail from Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. This started the immigration and by 1792 the population was more than 100,000 and Kentucky was then admitted to the Union. 1820's and 1830's engineering overcame the mountain wall. The west could be reached via the Erie and Pennsylvania Main Line canals, or on steamboats up the Mississippi River, Cumberland Gap declined in importance, but it had overseen the opening of the first American West.


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Trail to the Cumberland Gap overlook.

State boundary on the trail.

The town of Cumberland Gap, TN.

Tunnel Entrance through the Gap.

Traveling through the two mile tunnel.

Tunnel exit.

Boone and his crew of 30 backwoodsmen hacked a 208 mile trail (The Wilderness Road) in less than three weeks. On April 1, 1775, they founded Boonsborough on the Kentucky River.

You can hike either the Wilderness Road or the Boone Trail.

This is the Boone Trail.

Boone was 62 years old when he wrote this petition to Governor Isaac Shelby. Two other Kentucky colonels, James Knox and Joseph Crockett, got the "Bisness"..

Boone led a party of pioneers in 1773, but before reaching the Gap a fierce Indian attack halted this attempt at settlement. Boone's eldest son was killed in the encounter.

This is a picture of Cumberland Gap including the overlook that is in the visitors center.

During the Civil War this earthwork - called Fort Rains by the Confederates and Fort McCook by the Federals - was one of many fortifications ringing Cumberland Gap.
These defenses were considered too formidable to be taken by direct assault, which accounts for the small number of soldiers killed here. Poor roads and rough country of the Gap made it difficult to resupply the outposts. An attacker could simply cut off supply lines, leaving the forts with little tactical value. Later in the war, General Ulysses S. Grant visited this area and declared the Gap unusable as an invasion route because of the condition of the roads. Defense of the Gap was no longer strategically important.

Trail to Fort Rains.

Cannon on the earthwork.

View from Fort Rains.

Mammoth Cave National Park

This is a large picture of Mammoth Cave, our tour was two miles long, and we were in the cave about three hours.
Two miles seems small when you consider there are currently 350 miles of cave tunnels, and more being found.


We spent two nights in Dog Creek Campground north of Mammoth Cave National Park and took the 2 hour tour through Mammoth Cave. It was very different from other caves we've been in. This one is sandstone and limestone worn away with water, very few "formations" in the cave, just tunnels. We went through "Fat Man's Misery" a very narrow part we had to squeeze through sideways for a long stretch, then through a section we walked bent over to get through, then we climbed 8 flights of stairs to the top of a dome and down more tunnels - very cool!


Entering Mammoth Cave.

We saw this doe along the road in.

Mouth of Mammoth Cave.

140 feet below the surface this is the Rotunda.

This passageway is about seven feet high.

This passageway is about four feet high.

This passageway is about two feet wide.

Around 1870 Luther Ewing used to play his banjo in this room for the tourists.

This is a cat walk over the bottomless pit.

During the War of 1812 over 4000,000 pounds of calcium nitrate was extracted from Mammoth Cave..

Fresh water from the cave entrance was piped into the cave to wooden hoopers filled with cave earth. The water leached through this nitrate rich dirt and filtered through split logs at the hopper base into a holding tank..

A large upright pump forced this nitrate solution up to a higher tank then fed through another set of pipes to to entrance. On the surface, the solution was processed into salt-petre which was a major ingredient in manufacturing black gunpowder for the war.