DOTW: Cumberland Gap Nat'l Historic Park

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Registered: 03-22-2003
DOTW: Cumberland Gap Nat'l Historic Park
Mon, 03-29-2004 - 3:07pm
Throughout the ages, poets, songwriters, novelists, journal writers, historians and artists have captured the grandeur of the Cumberland Gap. James Smith, in his journal of 1792, penned what is perhaps one of the most poignant descriptions of this national and historically significant landmark: "We started just as the sun began to gild the tops of the high mountains. We ascended Cumberland Mountain, from the top of which the bright luminary of day appeared to our view in all his rising glory; the mists dispersed and the floating clouds hasted away at his appearing. This is the famous Cumberland Gap..." Thanks to the vision of Congress, who in 1940 authorized Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, visitors today can still bask in its beauty and immerse themselves in its rich history.

The story of the first doorway to the west is commemorated at the national park, located where the borders of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia meet. Carved by wind and water, Cumberland Gap forms a major break in the formidable Appalachian Mountain chain. First used by large game animals in their migratory journeys, followed by Native Americans, the Cumberland Gap was the first and best avenue for the settlement of the interior of this nation. From 1775 to 1810, the Gap's heyday, between 200,000 and 300,000 men, women, and children from all walks of life, crossed the Gap into "Kentuckee".

While in the area you might be interested to know that the town of Middlesboro is actually located in a meteor crater.

Geologists in Kentucky have concluded that Middlesboro was built in a meteor crater, and local officials feel sure the discovery will pay huge dividends in tourism dollars.

William M. Andrews Jr., a geologist with the Kentucky Geological Survey, said erosion and vegetation have hidden most signs of the meteor's impact. But enough evidence remains, he said.

"You have the round shape, shattered rock in the middle and deformed rocks around the sides that have been bent, folded or shoved," Andrews said. "That's pretty strong evidence that it was a meteor impact crater."

Rocks were found near the center of the crater in 1966 that were so shattered that something out of this world had to have happened. The theory is that a meteor some 1,500 feet in diameter crashed into the site around 300 million years ago, creating the 4 mile crater.