The Cumberland River is a waterway in the Southern United States. It is 688 miles (1,107 km) long. It starts out as three separate forks that join in Harlan County, KY. Martins Fork starts in Hensley Settlement (Kentucky) on Brush Mountain in Bell County, KY and snakes its way north through the mountains to Baxter, KY. Clover Fork starts on Black Mountain (Kentucky) in Holmes Mill, KY, near the Virginia border, and flows west paralleling Kentucky Route 38 until it reaches Harlan, KY. Originally, Clover Fork flowed through downtown Harlan and merged with Martin's Fork at the intersection of Kentucky Route 38 and US Route 421. However, as part of a flood control project in 1992, the Clover Fork was diverted through a tunnel under Little Black Mountain, emerging in Baxter, KY where it joined with Martins Fork. Poor Fork starts as a small stream on Pine Mountain (Appalachian Mountains) in Letcher County, KY near Flat Gap, VA. It flows southwest paralleling Pine Mountain until it merges with the other two forks in Baxter, KY. From there, the wider river continues flowing west through the mountains of Kentucky to Cumberland Falls.

Cumberland Falls, 68 feet (21 m) high, is one of the largest waterfalls in the eastern United States and is one of the few places in the Western Hemisphere where a moonbow can be seen.

Past Cumberland Falls, the river continues to grow in size as it merges with more creeks and streams. It is the source waters of the manmade Lake Cumberland as well as Old Hickory Lake northeast of Nashville, TN. After flowing through Nashville, the river continues west through Tennessee and back into Kentucky at the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, a section of land nestled between Lake Barkley, which is fed by the Cumberland River, and Kentucky Lake. Finally, the river flows north and merges with the Ohio River northeast of Paducah, KY.

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