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Kentucky: a road trip through the state - Part 54 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

The Cumberland Gap Visitor Centre is located on U. S. Highway 25E just southeast of Middlesboro, Kentucky and just northwest of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel and the town of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. The visitor centre has a museum that tells you all about the Gap' s role as a transportation corridor. In the auditorium you can see films about the area' s cultural and natural history. There is also a book store and a crafts gift shop with all the items on sale from Appalachian area.

The area surrounding Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is composed entirely of sedimentary rock; this was formed from the repetitive rise and fall of shallow seas when this area was part of the coastline. Geologists have dated this region to the Cambrian period. This period started 550 million years ago and ended about 490 million years ago when there is evidence in the fossil record of a mass extinction event. The landscape you see today is a result of the uplift of the sedimentary followed by several million years of weathering and erosion. This is what has caused features like narrow ridges, steep cliffs, overlooks, and natural gaps. The Cumberland Gap is now known as a wind gap since the river no longer flows through it.

The central location of the Cumberland Gap region means that it is one of the U. S. areas that truly experiences all the four seasons. The summers are normally sunny and humid with typical temperatures in the mid to 30s C. In the winter months temperatures tend to drop just above freezing but are normally mild with rain and just a little snow.

Several American Civil War engagements occurred in and around the Cumberland Gap and are sometimes called Battle of the Cumberland Gap. In June 1862, Union Army General George W. Morgan captured the gap for the Union. In September of that year, Confederate States Army forces under Edmund Kirby Smith occupied the gap during General Braxton Bragg' s Kentucky Invasion. The following year, in a bloodless engagement in September 1863, Union Army troops under General Ambrose Burnside forced the surrender of 2, 300 Confederates defending the gap, gaining Union control of the gap for the remainder of the war.

The most interesting place in the area for me was the Hensley Settlement. This is an Appalachian living history museum on Brush Mountain. The settlement is part of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. It is located approximately 10 miles north of the park visitor centre on Ridge Trail. It has twelve homestead log cabins, a one-room school house, and a blacksmith shop. A restored spring house on the property was used by the settlement as food storage. The settlement was established by two families that had married. The leaders were Sherman Hensley and Willy Gibbons and almost all of the inhabitants belonged to one of these families. The final resident of the settlement was another Sherman Hensley and he left in 1951. The school and some forty-five settlement structures and the agriculture environment were restored to their original state in the 1960s.
The final natural park we went to was the most spectacular and that trip continues in part 55.

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