The National Park Service areas in Kentucky has launched the Kentucky National Park Pentathlon, inviting those who visit all five NPS sites in the state to earn a special free commemorative patch. The Pentathlon is in recognition of the NPS 2016 Centennial.
“The National Park Service was created 100 years ago to protect national park areas and the opportunities for people to enjoy and understand them,” said Stan Austin, NPS Southeast Regional Director. “During the Centennial we encourage everyone to find their park and enjoy what it has to offer.”
Pentathlon participants can earn the commemorative patch by visiting all Kentucky national parks by April 2017, and participating in at a least one activity at each park. Kentucky has all or part of five national park sites within its borders.
• Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Bell and Harlan counties) provided the first great gateway to the west. The buffalo, the Native American, the longhunter and the pioneer all traveled this route through the mountains into the wilderness of Kentucky. Modern day explorers and travelers continue to explore this great gateway and the many miles of trails and scenic features found in the park.
• Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park (Larue County) includes the country’s first memorial to Lincoln, built with donations from young and old, and enshrines the symbolic birthplace cabin. For over a century people from around the world have come to rural Central Kentucky to honor the humble beginnings of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. His early life on Kentucky’s frontier shaped his character and prepared him to lead the nation through Civil War.
• Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area (McCreary County) encompasses 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The area boasts miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs, is rich with natural and historic features and has been developed to provide visitors with a wide range of outdoor recreational activities.
• The Fort Heiman unit of Fort Donelson National Battlefield (Calloway County) and the rest of the area played a critical role in the Civil War. After the fall of Fort Donelson, the South was forced to give up southern Kentucky and much of Middle and West Tennessee. The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and railroads in the area, became vital Federal supply lines. Nashville was developed into a huge supply depot for the Union army in the west. The heartland of the Confederacy was opened, and the Federals would press on until the “Union” became a fact once more.
• Mammoth Cave National Park (Edmonson, Hart and Barren counties) preserves the cave system and a part of the Green River valley and hilly country of south central Kentucky. This is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored. Early guide Stephen Bishop called the cave a “grand, gloomy and peculiar place,” but its vast chambers and complex labyrinths have earned its name — Mammoth.
Possible activities include hiking, biking, horseback riding, canoeing, camping, volunteering, attending a ranger-led program, bird-watching, visiting a park’s museum, seeing a park’s film or any other activity available at the parks. Participants can do the same activity at all five parks or try something different at each location.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Superintendent Sula Jacobs is elated about this new program. “This is an amazing opportunity for visitors to Kentucky’s national parks and we’re thrilled to be part of it. Cumberland Gap has a dazzling array of programs including tours of the historic Hensley Settlement and Gap Cave, Appalachian and bluegrass music, pioneer camps, a shooting star spectacular, and even a film fest showcasing America’s national parks.”
Though nine months away, Jacobs already extends an invitation to all when on April 11, 2016 the America the Beautiful quarter featuring Cumberland Gap will be launched. “On April 9 and 10, we’ll set the stage for the quarter launch by hosting a large pioneer encampment on the grounds of the visitor center. The crème de la crème of living historians will share with all the many stories of the diverse people journeying through the nation’s first doorway to the west. And on the 11th, we’ll witness the unveiling of the Cumberland Gap quarter. This event will be a signature event for Cumberland Gap as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.”
Jacobs also explains that Cumberland Gap’s participation in the Pentathlon is being supported by park partner Eastern National.
For more information on the Kentucky National Parks Pentathlon, contact Cumberland Gap National Historical Park at 606-248-2817 or visit www.nps.gov/cuga. Learn how Eastern National supports the interpretive and educational mission of the National Park Service at www.easternnational.org.