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About Pound Gap
map showing location of Pound Gap

Pound Gap is an opening in Pine Mountain, a long linear mountain that runs almost north and south for about 125 miles along the Kentucky and Virginia border. Pine Mountain spans three Kentucky counties: Bell, Harlan, and Letcher. For a distance of nearly 90 miles, no stream cuts through the mountain, and there are no natural crossing points, making it an effective barrier to migration and transportation.

People had to get over this mountain and would do that at the easiest spot to cross. A fault bisects the mountain at Pound Gap, and weathering and erosion have created a hole in the ridge. This opening made it easier to cross the mountain there. Pound Gap was on a pioneer trail into the state, but most of the first pioneers passed through without settling. The Letcher County terrain was rugged and mountainous, with narrow but fertile valleys.

photo of Pound Gap
showing Upper Pennington-Lee formations on the left side (lighter rocks) and Pennington-Mississipian formations on the right (darker rocks)

Pound Gap is less important historically than the Cumberland Gap because the Wilderness Road passed through Cumberland Gap and provided a crossing point through the Cumberland Mountains for westward pioneers in the late 18th century.

Pound Gap had strategic importance during the Civil War. Both Confederate and Union armies used it to move troops over the mountain, and several skirmishes took place there.

illustration of Pine Mountain topography

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600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951
 Last Updated: Tuesday, 08-Sep-2009 11:59:43 Eastern Daylight Time