Once it was realized that the Cumberland River fed the Mississippi River, the river’s use was greatly increased as a means of transporting goods. By 1824, steamboats were carrying hemp, tobacco, and cotton down the Cumberland. Unfortunately, traveling the Cumberland River was not without dangers. In the Cumberland’s natural state, the river was almost impassable at its lowest water levels, strewn with rocky shoals, rapids, and sand and gravel bars. Navigations was extremely hazardous, and wooden hulls were easily damaged, and after accidents (which were common) boatmen could usually only salvage the damaged cargo.
By the End of the 20th century, river commerce on the Cumberland River was dying. Railroads ended flatboat and raft traffic on the waterways and reduced steamboat traffic. River traffic dropped down to less than ten boats per year. The last commercially – operated steamboats were taken out of commission in 1933.