Monday, September 28, 2020

Episode 544 (9-28-20): Cumberland Gap's Story Includes Geology, Water, Human History, and Music

Click to listen to episode (3:47)

Sections below are the following:

Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 9-25-20.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 28, 2020.  This episode is a revised repeat of an episode from September 2012.

MUSIC – ~10 sec – instrumental

This week, we feature a traditional tune about a prominent geographic feature found at the southwestern tip of Virginia and at the top of each Virginia Water Radio episode.  Have a listen for about 20 more seconds. 

MUSIC  - ~21 sec – instrumental

You’ve been listening to part of “Cumberland Gap,” performed by Dwight Diller and Timothy Seaman on the 2004 album “Virginia Wildlife,” done in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which is now the Department of Wildlife Resources. 

The tune, dating at least from the Civil War and widely recorded, refers to the gap in Cumberland Mountain at the far southwestern tip of Lee County, Virginia, where Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee meet.  That gap is the focal point of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, preserving what the National Park Service calls “the first great gateway to the west.”

For many centuries, the gap provided passage through the mountains for native peoples.  After European settlement, it was the opening through which hundreds of thousands of people took the Wilderness Road from Virginia to Kentucky and other western territories.  For millions of years before those human passages, geology, water, wind, and perhaps the impact of a meteorite were causing the erosion that eventually formed a key pathway over the imposing mountains of the Appalachian chain.

According to a National Park Service video about the Cumberland Gap park, quote, “Along more than 70 miles of trails, those who explore are rewarded with groves of hemlock, fields of wildflowers, meadows of rhododendron and fiddle ferns, and the chance to experience the legacy traced by bison, traveled by Cherokee and Shawnee, and crossed by explorers and pioneers on their way to transform a nation,” unquote.

Thanks to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 10 more seconds of “Cumberland Gap.”

MUSIC  - ~12 sec – instrumental


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 126, 9-3-12. 

The version of “Cumberland Gap” heard in this episode, from the 2004 album “Virginia Wildlife,” is copyright 2004 by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 229, 9-1-14.  More information about Mr. Seaman is available online at  The “Virginia Wildlife” album was a collaboration between Mr. Seaman and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which is now the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Map of area around Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  Map taken from National Park Service, “Cumberland Gap National Historical Park/Park Map,” online (as a PDF) at


View of Cleopatra’s Pool in Gap Cave, on of more than 30 caves in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  Photo taken from the
“Gap Cave” section of the National Park Service (NPS), “Cumberland Gap National Historical Park/Photo Gallery, online at, as of 9-28-20.


Winter scene from the historic Hensley Settlement area in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  Photo taken from the “Hensley Settlement” section of the National Park Service (NPS), “Cumberland Gap National Historical Park/Photo Gallery, online at, as of 9-28-20.


Deborah Highland, “Historical park to honor Cumberland Gap’s lesser-known travelers Role of slaves in blazing trails will be remembered,” Bowling Green [Ky.] Daily News, March 19, 2012.

Jack Kennedy, “Giant meteor found to have struck Appalachia,” Christian Science Monitor, May 18, 2010.

Steve Kortenkamp, “Impact at Cumberland Gap: Where Natural and National History Collide,” PSI [Planetary Science Institute] Newsletter, Summer 2004, online (as a PDF) at 

Library of Congress, “Songs of the Civil War Era,” 1972 recording, online at  This collection includes “Cumberland Gap.”

National Park Service, “Cumberland Gap National Historical Park,” online at, 8/27/12.  This site includes an 11 min./39 second video; that video is the source of the quote in this Virginia Water Radio episode.

Morgan Simmons, “Turning a bug on its ear; Cumberland Gap officials inoculate trees against hemlock wooly adelgid,” Knoxville [Tenn.] News Sentinel, February 12, 2008. 

Smithsonian Folkways, “Ballads of the Civil War,” 1954 recording, online at  This collection includes “Cumberland Gap.”

Traditional Tune Archive, “Cumberland Gap (1),” online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Wilderness Road State Park,” online at 

“Wilderness Road—Virginia’s Heritage Migration Route,” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “History” and the “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water” subject categories.

Following are links to some other episodes on Virginia geography. 

A walk across Virginia – Episode 110, 5-14-12.
Exploration of the Chesapeake Bay –
Episode 140, 12-10-12.
Forks in waterways – Episode 284, 10-2-15.
Geography in general – Episode 265, 5-11-15.

Mountain gaps – Episode 288, 11-2-15.

Virginia connections to the Ohio River Valley – Episode 422, 5-28-18.

Virginia rivers quiz – Episode 334, 9-19-16.

Virginia's Western or Alleghany HighlandsEpisode 379, 7-31-17.

Water and settlement of Roanoke –
Episode 181, 9-30-13.

Watersheds – Episode 156, 4-8-13; Episode 209, 4-14-14; Episode 251, 2-2-15.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post. 

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.” 

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
K.10 – Changes in natural and human-made things over time.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
5.7 – constant change of Earth’s surface (including weathering and erosion, and plate tectonics).

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Virginia watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Grades K-6 Matter Theme
6.5 – properties and characteristics of water and its roles in the human and natural environment.

Earth Science Course
ES.7 – geologic processes, including plate tectonics.

ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia, with reference to the hydrologic cycle.

Biology Course
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 History Theme
1.2 – Virginia history and life in present-day Virginia.

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.6 – Virginia climate, seasons, and landforms.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.

VS.2 – physical geography and native peoples of Virginia past and present.

VS.5 – role of Virginia in the American Revolution.

VS.6 – role of Virginia in establishment of the nation (including migration of Virginians into other states in 1800s).

VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History to 1865 Course
USI.2 – major land and water features of North America, including their importance in history.

USI.3 – early cultures in North America.

USI.8 – westward expansion and reform in American from 1801—1861.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

WG.3 – how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.

WG.5 – regions of United States and Canada.

WG.15 – past and present trends in migration and cultural diffusion, including effects of environmental factors.

Virginia and United States History Course
VUS.2 – early European exploration and colonization and interactions among Europeans, Africans, and American Indians.

VUS.6 – major events in Virginia and United States in first half of 19th Century.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16
– on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Episode 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.

Episode 403, 1-15-18
– on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Episode 404, 1-22-18
– on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.

Episode 406, 2-5-18
– on ice on rivers, for middle school.

Episode 407, 2-12-18
– on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.

Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.

Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.

Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.

Episode 539, 8-24-20
– on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.