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Cumberland River Resource Stewardship and Protection: Managing the Cumberland River and the Land Between the Lakes Landscapes

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Document pages: 20 pages

Abstract: Cumberland River formed on Cumberland Plateau by confluence of the Poor and Clover forks in Harlan county, Kentucky and loops south through northern Tennessee. It joints the Ohio River at Smithland, Kentucky. The Cumberland River is 1107 km long and has a drainage area of 46,830 km2. The Cumberland crosses a highland bench in Cumberland Plateau and flows in a gorge between 90 - 120 m cliffs. The Cumberland Falls is 20.7 m high. The river enters the central limestone basin of Tennessee, turning north, crosses the plain of western Kentucky to Ohio River at Smithland, Kentucky and at one point it is less than 3 km from Tennessee River. The Cumberland River had a long history of transporting furs, canoes, guns, armies, settlers, coal products and manufactured goods in the 1700s and 1800s. Three separate forks (Martin’s Fork, Clover Fork, and Poor Fork) flow out of the Appalachian Mountains in southeast Kentucky near the Virginia border to form the headwaters of the Cumberland River near Harlan, Kentucky. Steamboat traffic on the Cumberland River increased substantially in the 1800s as expanding coal fields, stone quarries and Tennessee produce began to be shipped throughout the region. The Cumberland River was surveyed during this period and between 1832 and 1838 Congress appropriated $155,000 for improving commercial navigation. With this infusion of money the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) could clear the river of snags and build wing dams to deepen the channel. A 1060 km Cumberland River regional trail system, similar to the Tennessee River regional trail system under development, is needed to promote recreational tourism and increase use of the Cumberland River and basin. The primary objectives are: 1) to document how the landscape and geological resources of the Cumberland River have contributed to the successful water resource and economic development of a historic region in North America, 2) to identify future risks to the natural and environmental resources, 3) create a regional trail system with community access points and 4) create generations of people who care about the environmental stewardship and protection of the river and landscape resources.

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