Sharing the story of the Cumberland Historic Byway is an exercise in discovering who we are by understanding the landscape from which we come. The easternmost point of the Byway begins in Cumberland Gap, TN, and reveals how early migratory patterns of land animals paved the way for legendary long hunters Daniel Boone and Elisha Walden to forever cement their fate in folklore history. The small “gap” identified by these gentlemen would later serve as the point of crossing for hundreds of thousands of settlers moving west into the regions that would become the states of Kentucky and Tennessee. Meanwhile, some two
hundred miles to the west, in Celina, TN, the convergence of the Obey and Cumberland rivers would provide the transportation route necessary to supply the virgin timber that would ultimately be used to construct the city of Nashville, TN. The land in between these two places would become the backdrop for the creation of a one-of-a-kind British/American community, Rugby, TN; the home of one of the most decorated soldiers in WWI, Alvin C. York; and the birthplace of the longest serving Secretary of State, Cordell Hull.
While the advent of the automobile has fundamentally changed the way humans experience the landscape, a new awareness of the environment and a desire to reconnect with nature has spawned a generation of travelers who seek out unique byways for exploration. Although the roads that make up the Cumberland Byway were not constructed for strictly scenic purposes, they do reveal a multitude of intrinsic qualities and provide a number of experiences that allow its users to connect with the landscape. The road, as it is experienced today, is much more than just a connection between the Cumberland Gap and the Cumberland River – it is a destination in its own right.