Known as the gateway to the West, Cumberland Gap is the natural pass through the Appalachian Mountains in the area where Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee meet. The Gap provided passage for Native American groups, explorers, and settlers and it plays an important role in the tales of Daniel Boone, an intrepid explorer and fur trader who forged a settled path through the region and into Kentucky. Significant destruction to both Cumberland Gap’s natural and built landscapes occurred during the Civil War period, which was only remedied when coal and iron deposits encouraged a spate of industrialization in the area and then a renewed interest in preserving the area’s natural beauty and memorializing its roles in westward expansion and the Civil War.
Archaeological Fun Fact: In addition to the remnants of Civil War battles, Cumberland Gap National Park contains a small community known as the Hensley Settlement that was inhabited from 1904-1951. The founder, Sherman Hensley, and his wife Nicey Ann had 19 children, many of whom are buried in the town’s extant cemetery. The self-sufficient isolated settlement consisted of twelve to fourteen families who subsisted on raising sheep and farming grains that could be converted to alcohol.
Park website: www.nps.gov/cuga/
Established in 1686, Arkansas Post was the first French settlement west of the Mississippi and served as an important center of trade and government for hundreds of years. The Spanish and British sparred there during the Revolutionary War, the Post became part of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and a Confederate fort fell to Union forces there in 1863. Native Americans lived in the area long before the arrival of Europeans and played major roles in trade and military conflicts during the various European occupations.
Archaeological Fun Fact: Archaeologists began searching for the original Arkansas Post during the 1880s. In 1998, Arkansas Archaeological Survey staff and Arkansas Archaeological Society volunteers discovered an area where European and Native American artifacts intermingled. This site is believed to be the original Post, built at the earlier Quapaw Indian village of Osotouy.
Park website: www.nps.gov/arpo/