Digital Heritage Moment: Cumberland Gap

Cumberland Gap

George Caleb Bingham’s depiction of Daniel Boone escorting settlers through the Cumberland Gap. Courtesy Kemper Art Museum, Washington University.

The Cumberland Gap is an important geographical feature that shaped Southern Appalachia’s history. This V-shaped low pass through the Cumberland Mountains became an important route for western settlement and commerce from northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia into Kentucky. First used as a hunting and trading path by Native Americans, it was widened by Daniel Boone into a rough track in 1755 that became known as the Wilderness Road. It was a crucial military objective during the Civil War. In 1908 a hardtop road was built through the Gap; in 1996 the road was improved to a four-lane highway with a tunnel. The Gap became part of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in 1940 and today attracts many visitors who enjoy its displays of natural and cultural history.

Digital Heritage Moments are produced at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. To learn more, visit digitalheritage.org. You may also hear Digital Heritage Moments each weekday on radio stations WKSF-FM, WWCU-FM, WMXF-AM, WPEK-AM and WWNC-AM.

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