The Cumberland Narrows west of Cumberland, Maryland, along Wills Creek, with Haystack Mountain on the left and Wills Mountain on the right. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (left), Alternate U.S. 40, the Old National Road (center, left of the creek), and the CSX Railroad (right) can be seen in the foreground.
|Elevation||620 ft (189 m)|
|Traversed by||U.S. Route 40, The National Road|
|Location||Allegany County, Maryland, U.S.|
|Topo map||USGS Cumberland|
The Cumberland Narrows (or simply "The Narrows") is a water gap in western Maryland in the United States, just west of Cumberland, Maryland. Wills Creek cuts through the central ridge of the Wills Mountain Anticline at a low elevation here between Wills Mountain to the north and Haystack Mountain to the south. Cliffs and talus of the two mountains' Tuscarora quartzite caprock are prominent within the Narrows. A prominent rocky outcropping at the south end of Wills Mountain in the Cumberland Narrows is known as Lover's Leap.
The geological features of the Narrows provide Cumberland a western backdrop of the two mountains with a narrow gap between them.
The Cumberland Narrows serves as a western gateway from Cumberland to the Appalachian Plateau and the Ohio River Valley beyond. The Old National Road, now Alternate U.S. 40, passes through the Narrows, along with the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's main line between Baltimore/Washington and Pittsburgh, now part of the CSX system, and a former line of the Western Maryland Railroad, now used by the steam- and diesel-powered excursion trains of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.
The rocky outcropping known as Lover's Leap is on Wills Mountain on the northeast side of the Cumberland Narrows. Lover's leap is 1,652 feet (504 m) above sea level and made up of oddly squared projectories of rock, from its top, all the way down to the National Highway (Alternate U.S. 40) below.
The name comes from a Native American Romeo-and-Juliet legend which tells how a jilted lover met his end by jumping off this ledge.
Inventor Frederick John Bahr bought Wills Mountain and built his log cabin on top. Lover's leap has been frequently romanticized by postcard pictures of this valley. The most famous post-card photos were taken by George Steward in 1950 and published in the 1953 book, U.S. 40. Also, it is known that the air currents whipping up and around are so strong that a climber cannot be heard from the top once over the lip, nor easily seen due to the projected rock angles.
Today, these rocks high above Wills Creek provide one of the most popular views in the Allegheny Mountains, with Cumberland, the highway, and two railroads nearby below and the surrounding states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia in the distance.
The Artmor Plastics Corporation was located on the Wills Mountain (northern) side of the Narrows in a former World War II textile factory. Artmor made household items such as plastic dishes and table tops. The factory now houses a museum chronicling the life of Arthur Morgan, Artmor's founder.
- Will H. Lowdermilk, "History of Cumberland", Clearfield Co., October 1997, Paperback, ISBN 0-8063-7983-9. Full Text Online
- McGuinness, "Along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroads", Arcadia Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-7385-3742-X
- Rogers, "Adventure Guide to the Chesapeake Bay By Stillman D. Rogers, Barbara Radcliffe Rogers",
Hunter Publishing, 2001, ISBN 1-55650-889-1