Want to see Moonbeams? Try the Cumberland Falls
The Cumberland Falls, named by Zachary Green in 1770, were known to the Native Americans for many years before this discovery. The Falls are 68 feet tall and an impressive 175 foot wide plunge water fall. In 1780, the area surrounding the falls was beginning to be settled by European settlers, and by 1875 there was a hotel called Moonbow Inn that sat overlooking the falls.
Resting on Sandstone rock, and layers of shale, limestone, and coal, the area of the falls was formed over 296 million years ago when it was covered by a shallow sea. The Cumberland River that rests on this layer of limestone and sandstone is barely old enough, geologically, to have a significance on the geography. Earlier erosion to the area has left many unique natural features like chimneys, gorges, and arches.
The rate of the water as it flows over the cliff is 3,6000 cubic feet per second. The air is filled with a fine mist of water droplets and this mist is one of only two water falls in the world that catches moonbeams. This is called the lunar rainbow. This can occur at any water fall that has the ideal conditions, and the Cumberland falls meet all of those conditions. The full moon's light must be able to shine down without being impeded by trees or cliffs, and there cannot be any light pollution. The only other water fall that has this remarkable trait is Victoria Falls.
The Cumberland Falls is a wonderful tourist destination. The area is one of the few remaining wildernesses of the east, and the geological formations can keep tourists busy after they have seen the falls. Given the moniker, the Niagara of the South, the park sits in the middle of the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.
Often, honeymooners will visit for a romantic escape. There is a haunting legend of one such couple that visited the falls only to meet with disaster. In the 1950’s, a newlywed couple was at the falls and wanted to get some good evening pictures. The wife stood on a pillar at the edge of the cliff, and slipped and fell 70 feet to her death, all while calling her husband’s name. Supposedly, every now and then, a woman is seen floating over the cliffs beckoning to those who see her.
Of course, urban legends are simply that, and should not deter you from visiting the beautiful site of the Cumberland Falls!