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Historical rendering of Daniel Boone and the frontier party blazing their way along the Wilderness Road

Historical Rendering of Daniel Boone Along the Wilderness Road

One of the nation’s most historic routes, the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail was blazed by the legendary frontiersman in 1775 from the Long Island of the Holston at what is now Kingsport TN, through the Cumberland Gap of Virginia into Kentucky.  It would become the route for thousands of settlers to the western frontier.

Long before Columbus discovered America, the Wilderness Trail was a major link in the trail systems of the Indians on the North American continent, used for commerce and raids.  Gabriel Arthur, a young indentured servant, was the first of record to travel the route and see the Cumberland Gap, a natural break in the mountains.  Arthur was sent along the trail in 1674 by the Shawnee Indians to secure a trade agreement with settlers.  The next recorded man to see the Gap was Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750.

The most daring effort to colonize the rich lands of the Kentucky River area were those of Colonel Richard Henderson, a Superior Court judge of North Carolina.  Henderson decided the best way to secure the area was to deal directly with the Cherokee Indians.  He discussed plans with friends, and they formed the Transylvania Company and solicited the assistance of Boone in negotiating with the Indians and blazing the trail.

On March 10, 1775, Boone led his 30 trail blazers from Long Island of the Holston to cut the trail through some 200 miles of wilderness northwest through the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky.

Thanks to the Daniel Boone Wilderness Road Trail Association, today, travelers can follow the Wilderness Trail as closely as possible along the original route.  Several historical stops are available along the route, and it makes a great day-long road trip through the scenic rolling hills and valleys of Scott County, VA into Lee County, VA to the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.

Travelers may begin their journey at any juncture along the Wilderness Road.  Some of the more significant stops are listed below.  For detailed map:  https://danielboonetrail.com/trail-map/

Netherland Inn, Long Island of the Holston, Kingsport, Tennessee

Long Island on the Holston, or Hogoheegee River was the sacred treaty ground to the Cherokee.  It is the western terminus of the Reedy Creek Road, which carried the Great Warrior’s Path from Bristol to Kingsport. The Netherland Inn was strategically located in King’s Port and served as a way station for both river and road travelers.  Visitors can access the Long Island of the Holston via a swinging bridge, located on the Greenbelt walkway across from the Netherland Inn.  On the island, visitors can see the monument erected by the Cherokee nation on land ceded to them in commemoration of the United States Bicentennial.  The stone in the monument was brought from the Qualla Reservation at Cherokee, North Carolina.

Long Island of the Holston Marker

Cherokee Nation Marker at Long Island of the Holston

Anderson Blockhouse Site, Carters Valley, Scott County, Virginia

The historic marker indicates the original location of the John Anderson Blockhouse.  Anderson built his blockhouse on the knoll here sometime before 1775. (A replica of the John Anderson Blockhouse was constructed at Natural Tunnel State Park, Duffield, VA.  Generally open Saturday and Sunday, May through October, it is currently closed due to COVID-19.  Visitors can drive up and visit the grounds.)

A blockhouse was a specialized log cabin built of squared logs, and with an upper story that extended out overhanging the walls of the lower structure.  The squaring of the timbers made a tight fit, which left no space for an adversary to shoot through into the interior of the structure.

Since the favorite way to get someone who was barricaded within a log cabin to come out was to set fire to it, the overhanging upper story afforded the opportunity to shoot down on anyone attempting to set the lower building on fire.  Blockhouses were used as fortified strong points by the military all across the Eastern North America.

The Anderson Blockhouse functioned as a gathering spot for pioneers, who would wait at the Blockhouse until enough “guns” had gathered to make the trek through Indian territory.  The Blockhouse was the last contact with the Holston Settlements.

After gathering his 30 ax men at Fort Patrick Henry, it was at the Blockhouse that Boone began to blaze the trail into Kentucky.  The trail went north past the Blockhouse on state route 606 to the ford just upstream from the present swinging bridge.  The swinging bridge is still maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and visitors are encouraged to meander out on the bridge.

Moccasin Gap, Gate City, Virginia

Moccasin Gap in Clinch Mountain is one of two ground level water gaps leading from the western reaches of the Great Valley of Virginia into the interior of the Alleghenies, the other being the Narrows of the New River.

The two main trails of the central Appalachians joined for a short distance to make the passage through Moccasin Gap.  The most important one was the Great Warrior’s Path, or the Wilderness Trail, or alternately the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail.

This area was of great significance during Indian times because it was the main trail connecting the Cherokee Country with that of the Shawnee in Ohio.  This last trail ran from the Smokies through Moccasin Gap to Big Stony Creek to High Knob, Pound Gap, Elkhorn Creek, The Big Sandy River, and across the Ohio River.

Daniel Boone, Virginia, Scott County

Hob Nob Restaurant

Hob Nob Drive-in Restaurant

This railroad yard and the community that surrounds it is the only place in Virginia named after Daniel Boone.  This is the original Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail, and Boone reportedly drank from a spring in this area.  Today, this area is more famous as the home of the Hob Nob, an iconic restaurant that has been in the same family for more than 60 years.  It is famous for its diner fare, in particular the soft-serve ice cream cones.

Clinchport, Virginia and Stock Creek

Cinchport was the head waters of flat boat navigation on the Cinch River, just as Kingsport was on the Holston.  Not only did pioneer loggers build massive log rafts here in the winter to catch the spring tide to float their logs to mills at Chattanooga, but settlers farther up the Clinch would bring produce downstream in dug out canoes called bateaux.  Clinchport was the region’s point of entry into the Tennessee River System.  The Wilderness Road followed Stock Creek from here.

Natural Tunnel State Park, Duffield, Virginia

Natural Tunnel is a great spot to stop, get out and stretch your legs.  Although the Visitor Center is not open to the public now, the chairlift down to the bottom of the Tunnel is currently available Friday through Sunday.  Ride the chairlift down where you can take the boardwalk out to the mouth of the 850-feet long tunnel.  Tall as a ten-story building, the limestone cave within the tunnel was carved out thousands of years ago by Stock Creek.

Blockhouse

Replica of John Anderson Wilderness Road Blockhouse

Wilderness Road Blockhouse Exploration Station, Natural Tunnel State Park, Duffield, Virginia

Located within Natural Tunnel State Park, the Wilderness Road Blockhouse is a replica of the original John Anderson Blockhouse that stood on now Carter’s Valley Road and served as a gathering point for pioneers. Those making their way westward would gather at the Blockhouse until there were enough “guns” to make the trek through Indian territory westward to Kentucky.  The Blockhouse is currently closed to visitors due to COVID-19, but travelers may still stop and walk around the grounds.

Daniel Boone Historical Marker, Duffield, Virginia

One of the few remaining Daniel Boone Historical markers in existence.

Kane Gap, Duffield, Virginia

This natural notch was a welcome sight to travelers on the Wilderness Trail.  It was through this Gap that countless thousands trudged as they made their westward.  Accessed via Fraley Avenue, Duffield, this is the only trail where you can actually walk in the footsteps of famed frontiersman Daniel Boone.  The trail is part of the Daniel Boone Birding and Wildlife Trail.  Managed by the Jefferson National Forest Service, the trail is moderate to difficult, but is worth the climb to the Gap.  Just before reaching the Gap, visitors will see the “pioneer hotel” recorded in many journals.  This large rock outcrop served as a shelter to the thousands before they crossed down into the valley below.

Daniel Boone Wilderness Road Interpretative Center, Duffield, Virginia

A satellite location of Natural Tunnel State Park, the Center is currently open Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.  Admission is free.  Here visitors learn the important role the Wilderness Road played in American’s westward expansion.  The center offers a glimpse of the rough, unforgiving terrain early settlers traversed on their way to Kentucky.  The museum focuses on the portion of the trail from Sycamore Shoals in Elizabethton, Tennessee to the Cumberland Gap and the brave men, women and children who traveled the trail.  There are several hands-on exhibits, such as striking flint and steel to get a spark.

Powell Mountain Overlook, Duffield, Virginia

Regardless of the season, the Powell Mountain Overlook always delivers an amazing view.  Located between Duffield and Stickleyville, Virginia, the Overlook offers a spectacular view down into the valley below and is a favorite stop along the Wilderness Road.

Stickleyville School, Stickleyville, Virginia

The school stands on or near the site of the massacre of James Boone, Daniel’s son.  At the time, the Boones were migrating to Kentucky and James had gone ahead along with several others, notably, Henry Russell. According to accounts of the massacre, “wolves” howled all night around the camp.  At dawn, a mixed party of Shawnee and Cherokee Indians attacked and shot James Boone and Henry Russell, through the hips so that they could not escape.  The pair were then tortured with knives and then killed.  Boone is said to have asked a Shawnee Indian, Big Jim, who Boone knew from visits to the Boone family homestead in North Carolina, to kill him.  Russell was reportedly clubbed to death and his body shot full of arrows.

Jonesville, Virginia

Mumps Fort stood at the top of the hill where the current courthouse is located today.  The Fort was built by William Mumps in 1775 in a community known then as Glade Spring or Sinking Springs.  Mumps Fort abandoned in 1776 at the outbreak of the Cherokee War.  The garrison was then repositioned at Fort Blackmore in Scott County, Virginia.

White Cliffs, Ewing, Virginia

White Cliff Rocks, Ewing,  Virginia

White Cliff Rocks, Ewing, Virginia

The white rock cliffs atop Cumberland Mountain were among the most commonly mentioned geographic features recorded in the journals of the emigrants along the entire length of the Trail.  The pioneers seemed to take the cliffs as a hallmark of the wonderful new land that they were claiming as their own.

The term Cumberland seemed to ring in the souls of the pioneers as the name of the port-of-entry into the Promised Land.  The Cumberland Mountain guided them on their way until they reached Cumberland Gap, which was the gateway to Eden.  From there they traveled across the Cumberland Valley to the Bluegrass of Kentucky.

Wilderness Road State Park, Ewing, Virginia

The Wilderness Road State Park offers picnicking, hiking and nature and living history programs.  Visitors can enjoy the visitor center, home to a theater showing an award-winning docudrama, “Wilderness Road, Spirit of a Nation.”  The center also has a frontier museum and a gift shop with unique regional gifts.  The park features the reconstructed Martin’s Station, an outdoor, living history depicting life on Virginia’s 1775 frontier.  Guests can also enjoy the park’s picnic shelters, nature play-scape, ADA-certified playground, sand volleyball court and horseshoe pits.

Visitors can hike, bike or horseback ride on the 8.5 Wilderness Road Trail linking the park with more than 50 miles in the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Middlesboro, Kentucky

Cumberland Gap National Park

Cumberland Gap National Park

Cumberland Gap National Park is located at the crossroads of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia and creates a natural break in the Appalachian Mountains.  The Cumberland Gap Visitor Center features a museum with interactive exhibits about the Gap’s role as a transportation corridor, and also features the Cumberland Crafts gift shop, which houses juried wares from crafters throughout Appalachia.

The park covers 24,000 acres and is among the largest national parks in the eastern United States.  Stretching about 20 miles, the park runs along the Cumberland Mountains.  It includes 24 known cave features, ranging in size from around 20 feet to more than 16 miles in length.  There are also a large number of cliff systems in the park, the most prominent of which is the 500 feet cliffs of White Rocks, which is located in the eastern portion of the area.  At the northeastern end, the park lies adjacent to the Sillalah Creek Wildlife Management Area and Martin’s Fork Wildlife Management Area and State Natural Area.

Driving the entire Wilderness Road Trail can be done in one full day.  Conveniently located along the way are several places to dine, including Campus Drive-in and Family Bakery, Gate City; the Hob Nob, Daniel Boone; Chubeez, Duffield; A Better Burger, Jonesville; and Dutch Treat, Rose Hill; as well as national chain fast food restaurants.

For lodging convenient to the Wilderness Trail, visitors have the option of Roberts Mill Suites and Estilville Bed & Breakfast, Gate City; Appalachian Mountain Cabins and PapPaw’s Cabin, Duffield; Valliee Farm Farmhouse, Stickleyville; and Wilderness Road Bed & Breakfast, Ewing.  Camping is available at both Natural Tunnel State Park and Cumberland Gap Wilderness Road Campground.

 

Continue the journey along the Wilderness Road by visiting the new Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretative Center, located in Duffield, Virginia.  Daniel Boone Interpretative Center

The new center overlooks Kane Gap–a visible representation that shows the path settlers once toon on their westward journey.  A satellite location of Natural Tunnel State Park, the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretative Center is a multi-purpose facility with a large conference room, library and museum.  The center focuses largely on the story of the Wilderness Road from Sycamore Shoals to Cumberland Gap.  The ultimate goal is to educate visitors on the importance of the Wilderness Road and the key role it played in westward expansion.

At the center, explore the interactive museum, participate in a scheduled program and visit the gift shop for souvenirs and additional information about the area’s history.  The center is the perfect location to schedule a field trip or reserve the conference room for a meeting or special event.

Winter hours of operation are Friday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Free.  Located at 371 Technology Trail, Duffield, Virginia.

Call 276-431-0104 for more information.

 

The Anderson Blockhouse was built in the late 1700s to protect European settlers from Indian attacks. The original location of the blockhouse can be visited along the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail while a replica can be seen at Natural Tunnel State Park.

Wilderness RoadJohn Anderson built his blockhouse in the East Carter’s Valley section of Scott County sometime before 1778. Situated on the edge of the Wilderness Trail, it became an important stop-over for travelers who gathered at the blockhouse until a sufficient number of people and rifles made it relatively safe to proceed on their journey west. From the blockhouse, these settlers would travel for at least two weeks to the Cumberland Gap, through which they would voyage into Kentucky. Approximately 300,000 people walked and led their pack horses along this trail on their way toward their dreams, somwhere to the west.

The blockhouse is a fortified building, constructed to be easily defendable. The top story is wider than the lower, and openings in the overhanging story allowed defenders to fire down upon anyone who approached the building. The chimney is located within the structure so that attackers could not use it as a way to enter the building.

The replica found at Natural Tunnel State Park was built in 2003 by the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association. Adjacent to the blockhouse is the Wilderness Road IndiansBlockhouse Visitor Center that provides guests with more information on life in the 1700’s and at the blockhouse. The annual “Trade Faire and Muster” is held the last weekend in April at the Blockhouse, while the “Harvest Celebration” is held the last weekend in October.

The blockhouse and visitor center are open May through October on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 – 4 p.m.

Located at Natural Tunnel State Park, 1420 Natural Tunnel Parkway, Duffield, Virginia

276-940=2674

Handicap Accessible

Free

36-Miles of Historic Virginia Coal Heritage Trail in Scott County, Virginia

Scott County was formed in 1814 out of Lee, Russell, and Washington Counties.

The county plays host to a variety of natural and cultural attractions. The Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail travels through Scott County and witnessed thousands of pioneers pass through on journey as part of our nations westward expansion. The Coal Heritage Trail travels along Route 23 from Lee County 4.09 miles to the town of Duffield, Virginia. Duffield, once known as Little Flat Lick, serves as a gateway to the West along the Wilderness Road. This location provides a vantage point in which visitors can watch the trains roll past full of coal leaving Southwest Virginia.

Fannon Railroad MuseumLocated on the right at the intersection of Route 58/421/23 is the Fannon Railroad Museum operated by local railroad enthusiast Kenny Fannon. Many of the exhibits and items on display depict the rich railroad history that was a result of the coalfields that lay just to the North.

The Coal Heritage Trail leaves Duffield and travels 4.6 miles on Rt. 871 (Natural Tunnel Parkway) to Natural Tunnel State Park.Natural Tunnel State Park

The 850 foot long Natural Tunnel provides a way through to the coalfields beginning in 1890 and continuing until today. The tunnel is the focal point of Natural Tunnel State Park. The park offers a variety of recreational activities.

The Coal Heritage Trail then leaves Natural Tunnel State Park along Rt. 871 and travels 1.2 miles to an intersection with Route 23/58/421. Turning left onto Route 23/58/421, travel 1.26 miles to Route 65 (Clinch River Highway).

After turning left onto Route 65, you will travel under the Norfolk Southern Railroad trestle. This trestle represents one of two major railway lines hauling coal out of Southwest Virginia to Southeastern U.S. power plants.

The Coal Heritage Trail then leaves Natural Tunnel State Park along Rt. 871 and travels 1.2 miles to an intersection with Route 23/58/421. Turning left onto Route 23/58/421, travel 1.26 miles to Route 65 (Clinch River Highway).

After turning left onto Route 65, you will travel under the Norfolk Southern Railroad trestle. This trestle represents one of two major railway lines hauling coal out of Southwest ie
Virginia to Southeastern U.S. power plants.

The area immediately past the railroad trestle is what remains of a town known as Clinchport. This once thriving river town was completely destroyed by a catastrophic flood in 1977. Remains of the town blocks can still be seen.

From Clinchport, you will travel 8.6 miles to the town of Ft. Blackmore. Along the way you will be traveling parallel to the Clinch River, one of the most ecological diverse rivers in the CSX TrainUnited States. The Clinch River flows 135 miles through Southwest Virginia and into Tennessee where it ends at the Tennessee River. Also following the river is the CSX railroad formally known as the Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio Railroad. This railroad, in addition to the aforementioned Norfolk Southern line, provided avenues of commerce through Scott County to move coal, timber, and freight products from the region.

While traveling along Route 65 you will pass the General John Salling Monument. This monument is in honor of General John Salling, Virginia’s last surviving Confederate veteran and resident of Scott County. General Salling died in March of 1959 at the age of 112.

Upon arriving at Fort Blackmore, you will turn left on State Route 65/72 and travel 8.35 miles to Dungannon, Virginia. Fort Blackmore was a famous early fort and was situated on an ancient elevated flood plain on the north side of the Clinch River. For many years, this fort was on the extreme frontier of Virginia and was used by hunters, explorers, adventurers, and home seekers for rest and refreshment.  Daniel Boone was in command of Fort Blackmore and other forts on the Clinch River in 1774 while the militiamen were engaged in the Point Pleasant campaign of Dunmore’s war. From Ft. Blackmore continue on Rt. 65/72, 8.35 miles to the town of Dungannon.

In Dungannon, be careful to turn right on Rt. 65 and cross the Clinch River following Route 65 as it travels 5.08 miles to the Russell County line. In Dungannon, Route 72 leaves Route 65 and travels up the mountain to Coeburn, Virginia where you can continue on the Coal Heritage Trail in Wise County, Virginia.

 

Description

The sites on this loop are located in the westernmost section of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. Many of these sites carry historical significance to early frontier passage to the West, led by Daniel Boone. Although the sites on this loop do not trace the exact steps of Daniel Boone, the passageway that led to the opening of the West did include some of these sites, and the historical Daniel Boone Trail traverses parts of this loop. The furthest western site on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail is the Wilderness Road entrance to Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. It was through this Gap that Boone and fellow pioneers found their way to bluegrass Kentucky. Driving this loop will take visitors through small towns, long stretches of scenic roads, and pockets of lush, maturing forests. In addition to the wonderful wildlife that abounds throughout this area, visitors will enjoy the rich history of these lands.

Loop Map

VBWT Loop: MDB

ites on this loop:

Estillville Bed & Breakfast, Gate City