The National Park Service encompasses parks that range from coral lined coasts of the Florida Keys to giant redwood forests in California, but the mountainous terrain and spectacular views throughout our own Cumberland Gap National Park tell a different story.
A Presidential act signed by Woodrow Wilson on Aug. 25, 1916 has led the NPS to acquire or purchase over 84 million acres that span the 50 states and several of the US territories.
This week marks the 98th birthday of the NPS and without it, visitors may not have the opportunity to see the Tri-State from the Pinnacle Overlook or hike in the footsteps of Daniel Boone.
Cumberland Gap National Park also has a unique feature which allows people to see pioneer life in the early 1900s. Hensley Settlement is seen by only 2,000 visitors per year, but is one of the most maintained examples of self-sustained mountain life.
”A major driving factor which brings folks here are the variety of activities available for visitors at the park — Hensley Settlement is a major part of that,” said park ranger Scott Teodorski.
A tour of Hensley Settlement takes you on an hour-long drive by bus to a flattened space on a mountaintop where the homesteads of the Gibbons and Hensley families coexisted with their livestock and crops.
The tour includes views of the one-room schoolhouse, barns, smokehouse and several cabins that were built by hand and feature craftsman detail.
“The solitude and rugged beauty is simply striking. It is a phenomenal place to experience the culture and raw beauty of the southern Appalachians,” said Teodorski.
The Cumberland Gap National Park was not under NPS ownership until the 1940s.
Kelsey Gerhardt may be reached at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.