Allegheny Mountains, Routes Across

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ALLEGHENY MOUNTAINS, ROUTES ACROSS. The steep eastern escarpment of the Allegheny Mountains (3,000–5,000 feet high and extending from the Mohawk Valley to the Tennessee River) was a serious impediment to western conquest and settlement in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Routes across the Alleghenies depended upon gaps and approaches along the tributaries of rivers. Probably buffalo first trod these routes. Later, Native Americans followed them as trails. In turn they were used by explorers and fur traders.

The West Branch of the Susquehanna, extending close to the Allegheny River, furnished a route used by Native Americans, though only fur traders made much use of it during the early period. The branches of the Juniata River led to two historic routes across the Alleghenies: one, the Frankstown Path, much used by Pennsylvania fur traders; and the other, the Traders Path, followed by the Pennsylvania Road and Gen. John Forbes's expedition (Forbes's Road). The route used by Christopher Gist, George Washington, and Edward Braddock ran from the Potomac River at Wills Creek over the Alleghenies. From the headwaters of the Potomac also ran a route over the mountains, which was used in later times as the Northwestern Pike. The headwaters of the James River determined a route overland to branches of the Great Kanawha, one branch of which, the New River, also provided a route from the headwaters of the Roanoke River. Farthest south, Cumberland Gap offered easy passage from eastern Tennessee to central Kentucky, making possible the greatly used Wilderness Road. In light of the extensive use made of Forbes's Road, Braddock's Road, and the Wilderness Road in the westward movement of white Americans, probably no routes in the United States are more properly known as historic highways. The transportation of the twentieth century follows closely the old routes across the Alleghenies.


Hulbert, Archer Butler. The Old Glade (Forbes's) Road, Pennsylvania State Road. New York: AMS Press, 1971.

Alfred P.James/a. r.

See alsoBraddock's Expedition ; Roads .