Cumberland Falls

Billie and I recently returned from a trip to the central Kentucky area, and on our way there we stopped at Cumberland Gap for food, a brief rest, and some contemplation and speculation on the experiences early pioneers must have had as they passed through this wild landscape on the way to settling “the West.”  Surely this powerful waterfalls must have impressed them; it can be heard from a distance as it roars over the high rocks and smashes into the river bed below.  And as it crashes there, it throws up a mist of water droplets which apparently is somewhat unique.

This falls creates a moonbow, claimed to be the only one in the western hemisphere, seen as an arch of white light produced the base of the falls and continuing downstream on clear nights of the full moon.  An early hotel near the falls was named The Moonbow Inn in reference to this popular tourist attraction.

On this day the falls was full and angry, swollen by the heavy Spring rains, and the volume of water was much greater than could be seen in any of the picture postcards in the Visitor Center nearby.  The debris cluttering the area near the base of the falls must have been created from fallen trees and branches being swept downstream by the swollen river.  That too doesn’t show in the picture postcard views.

A number of small waterfalls joined the main torrent rushing to the river downstream, perhaps there only because of the heavy rains.  Whether temporary or a part of the usual scene, these small waterfalls are beautiful in their own right as they plunge down the stone cliffs to the river below.  The combination of graceful falling water and the multicolored stone cliffs fascinated me as much as the raging main falls, and I found myself wondering what pioneers like Daniel Boone might have thought as they viewed this natural beauty.

About Tom

Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Appalachian State University.
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