on June 11, 1940, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is a
United States National Historical Park located at the border between
Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
The Cumberland Gap is a sizable natural break in the Appalachian
Mountains. The gap was long used by Native Americans, as many
species of migratory animals passed through it from north to south
It was fertile hunting territory and the only easy cut through
the mountains from the southern wintering grounds of wild deer and
buffalo to their northern summer range. Starting around 1775, the
Gap became the primary route of transit for American settlers moving
west into Kentucky; between 1775 and 1810 as many as 300,000
settlers may have used the Gap.
The current Park preserves the natural beauty of the surrounding
area while focusing more on historic preservation, including tours
through the old Hensley Settlement, trips into Gap Cave, also known
as Cudjo's Cave, (once used for shelter by traveling Indians and
settlers), campfire programs and demonstrations of the settlers'
lifestyle, Living History events, and Appalachian music festivals
In recent years, the former roadbed of U.S. Highway 25E through
the park was restored to an early 19th century wagon path; this was
made possible with the 1996 completion of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel,
which rerouted US 25E under the park.
The park lies in parts of Bell and Harlan counties in Kentucky,
Claiborne County in Tennessee, and Lee County in Virginia. The park
contains the Kentucky-Virginia-Tennessee tri-state area, accessible
via a short trail.
The Park covers 20,508 acres and saw just over 1 million visitors
The Cumberland Gap Visitor Center is located on U.S. Highway 25E
just south of Middlesboro, Kentucky. The visitor center features a
museum with interactive exhibits about the Gap's role as a
transportation corridor, an auditorium that shows films about the
area's cultural and natural history, a book store and the Cumberland
Crafts gift shop. The visitor center is open every day except
Included in the park is Hensley Settlement, an early 20th century
mountain community that has been preserved by the park service as
representative of the early settler's life on top of Brush
Two families by the name of Hensley and Gibbons moved to the
mountain to escape the many changes that were taking place in the
early 1900's. Eventually, more family members followed and a
community was begun. A church and school was established under the
jurisdiction of the Bell County School System of Bell County,
Settlers continued their pioneer lifestyle until future
generations began accepting employment and marriage partners off the
mountain. Sherman Hensley, the founder of the settlement, was the
last to leave in 1951.
There are a number of picnic areas in the park. Most have shaded
picnic tables, water fountains, and trash containers. Some of the
picnic areas also have covered shelters which can accommodate large
National Historical Park