Shenandoah National Park encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the U.S. state of Virginia. This national park is long and narrow, with the broad Shenandoah River and Valley on the west side, and the rolling hills of the Virginia Piedmont on the east. Although the scenic Skyline Drive is likely the most prominent feature of the Park, almost 40% of the land area 79,579 acres (322.04 km2) has been designated as wilderness and is protected as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The highest peak is Hawksbill Mountain at 4,051 feet (1,235 m). Geography Satellite view of the heart of Shenandoah National Park at the height of the fall “leaf-peeping” season. The park encompasses parts of eight counties. On the west side of Skyline Drive they are, from northeast to southwest, Warren, Page, Rockingham, and Augusta counties. On the east side of Skyline Drive they are Rappahannock, Madison, Greene, and Albemarle counties. The park stretches for 105 miles (169 km) along Skyline Drive from near the town of Front Royal in the northeast to near the city of Waynesboro in the southwest. The Park headquarters are located in Luray. Geology Shenandoah National Park lies along the Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia. These mountains form a distinct highland rising to elevations above 4,000 feet (1,200 m). Local topographic relief between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley exceeds 3,000 feet (910 m) at some locations. The crest of the range divides the Shenandoah River drainage basin, part of the Potomac River drainage, on the west side, from the James and Rappahannock River drainage basins on the east side. Some of the rocks exposed in the park date to over one billion years in age, making them among the oldest in Virginia. Bedrock in the park includes Grenville-age granitic basement rocks and a cover sequence of metamorphosed Neoproterozoic sedimentary and volcanic rocks of the Swift Run and Catoctin formations and early Cambrian clastic rocks of the Chilhowee Group. Quaternary surficial deposits are common and mantle much of the bedrock throughout the park. The park is located along the western part of the Blue Ridge anticlinorium, a regional-scale Paleozoic structure at the eastern margin of the Appalachian fold and thrust belt. Rocks within the park were folded, faulted, distorted, and metamorphosed during the late Paleozoic Alleghanian orogeny The rugged topography of Blue Ridge Mountains is a result of differential erosion during the Cenozoic, although some post-Paleozoic tectonic activity occurred in the region. History Creation of the park Shenandoah was authorized in 1926 and fully established on December 26, 1935. Prior to being a park, much of the area was farmland and there are still remnants of old farms in several places. The Commonwealth of Virginia slowly acquired the land through eminent domain and then gave it to the U.S. Federal Government provided it would be designated a National Park. In the creation of the park [the Skyline Drive right-of-way was purchased from owners without condemnation], a number of families and entire communities were required to vacate portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many residents in the 500 homes in eight affected counties of Virginia were vehemently opposed to losing their homes and communities. Most of the families removed came from Madison County, Page County, and Rappahannock County. Nearly 90% of the inhabitants worked the land for a living. Many worked in the apple orchards in the valley and in areas near the eastern slopes. The work to create the National Park and Skyline Drive began following a terrible drought in 1930 which destroyed the crops of many families in the area who farmed in the mountainous terrain, as well as many of the apple orchards where they worked picking crops. Nevertheless, it remains a fact that they were displaced, often against their will, and even for a very few who managed to stay, their communities were lost. A little-known fact is that, while some families were removed by force, a few others (who mostly had also become difficult to deal with) were allowed to stay after their properties were acquired, living in the park until nature took its course and they gradually died. The policy allowed the elderly and disabled who so wished to remain with life tenancy. The last to die was Annie Lee Bradley Shenk who died in 1979 at age 92. Most of the people displaced left their homes quietly. According to the Virginia Historical Society, eighty-five-year-old Hezekiah Lam explained, "I ain't so crazy about leavin' these hills but I never believed in bein' ag'in (against) the Government. I signed everythin' they asked me." The lost communities and homes were a price paid for one of the country's most beautiful National Parks and scenic roadways.
Keywords:Blue Ridge Mountains, National, National Parks, Park, Shenandoah, Skyline Drive, USA, Virginia, blue, clouds, colors, fall, mountains, pastures, sky, sunset, trees, valleys, waterfalls
© Debra K Roberts Photography