• fog flows through Cumberland Gap

    Cumberland Gap

    National Historical Park KY,TN,VA

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  • No Cave Tours or Hensley Tours on September 27

    There will be no Gap Cave or Hensley Settlement tours offered on September 27, 2014 due to special Heritage Walk program. For more information please call the park visitor center at (606) 248-2817, extension 1075.

  • Sugar Run Trail Closed to Horses

    The Sugar Run Trail is temporarily closed to horse use due to the number of fallen trees as a result of recent storms. The trail is still open for hikers, but hikers should use caution.

  • Back the Bears!

    Support the park's "Back the Bears" campaign and help keep our bears wild and safe! More »

  • Cave Tour Alert!

    White Nose Syndrome is a disease that is killing bats in great numbers and has been found in park caves. While visiting Gap Cave please do not wear or bring anything that has been in other caves. Skylight Cave is currently closed.

Fire on the Mountain, Prescribed Burns at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

wildland firefighters conduct prescribed burn
wildland firefighters conduct prescribed burn
photo by Dirk Wiley

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News Release Date: February 29, 2012
Contact: Dirk Wiley, (606) 248-2817, extension 1054

 Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Plans for Prescribed Fire     

During the next two months, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park will resume the prescribed fires that have become an annual event at the park.  This year, the park plans to burn more than 400 acres in three areas, starting with 150 acres near the Wilderness Road campground in Virginia.     

The "Campground" and "Lewis Hollow" burn units are scheduled for some time in the next two weeks, weather permitting.  "Passers-by may notice the smoke rising as they drive on Hwy 58 through the park and shouldn't be alarmed," said Chief Ranger Dirk Wiley.  "We plan and prepare, and a month after the burn, most visitors will have to look carefully to notice the difference."  "And that," declared Wiley, "is the difference between a managed fire and a wildfire."     

Done properly, each prescribed burn will reduce the limbs and leaf litter on the ground that are the primary fuels for a wildfire.  At the same time, these low-grade fires kill some shrubs and other tree species, leaving an open understory underneath a mixed hardwood forest.  This was the type of forest that Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone saw when they travelled through the area, and the type of forest the park tries to maintain.     

"These are relatively small burns" explained Wiley.  "But for someone who isn't aware, it will look like a wildfire on the mountain." For ignition, the park is simply waiting for the right weather which influences the size of the fire, how hot it will burn, the direction the smoke will blow, the effect upon endangered species, and the quality of the experience for visitors traveling through the park.  The two burn units in Virginia will be directly visible to drivers on Hwy 58, while the third unit, "Harlan Road A," could have a minor and short impact for traffic on Route 988 through the park.     

Each of these units has been burned before, and each fire is a component of the park's overall Fire Management Strategy to help protect park resources and park neighbors from unplanned wildfires.  

To learn more about fire in the national parks, go to:

Did You Know?

Kentucky’s Historian Laureate, Dr. Thomas Clark

Kentucky’s Historian Laureate, Dr. Thomas Clark, listed Cumberland Gap as #1 in his list of 11 sites that every Kentuckian should visit. (Dr. Clark passed away on July 28th, 2005… just two weeks short of his 102nd birthday!)