Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is located in the State of Virginia in the United States. The park contains a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains and holds 199,100 acres of land, of which 79,579 acres comprise a designated wilderness. The park extends across a narrow area, through eight counties, from Waynesboro to the town of Front Royal.

The establishment of Shenandoah National park began in 1926, when the area was designated as a national park, but it was not officially established and opened until 1935. Most of the land belonged to farmers before the establishment of the park. Families were moved from over five hundred homes, many of which were destroyed. Prior to this removal, the area experienced a drought that affected most of the apple orchards and other farms. Despite this, most of the families did not want to leave and were forced to move and the few remaining families no longer resided in their former communities.

When Shenandoah National Park underwent development in the 1930’s, the initial plan called for segregated structures, but the state of Virginia pushed for the exclusion of African Americans. However, federal law called for segregation, so park facilities were built for that purpose.  However, at the time of the park’s opening, most of the structures only accepted whites. By 1939, facilities were built for African Americans, but these were inferior compared to other facilities. By the 1950’s, after World War 2, all of the facilities within the park were desegregated.

The climate within Shenandoah National Park is mainly tropical, although habitats do differ slightly depending upon the area. At lower elevations in southwestern portions of the park, where hills are common, pine trees dominate the landscape and prickly pear cacti are commonly seen. Northeastern areas of the park hold contrasting plant species like mosses and hemlocks. The park also contains hickory trees, maple trees, oak trees, ferns, daisies, and milkweed. Animal species within the park include white-tailed deer, skunks, red foxes, bobcats, black bears, wild turkeys, and brook trout.

Shenandoah National Park can be accessed by the park’s most well-known feature, known as Skyline Drive, a 105 mile road that extends throughout the entire park. Visitors can partake in many activities including hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing. Hiking trails lead to many waterfalls in the park including the most popular waterfall, Dark Hollow Falls, and Lewis Falls, which is part of a two-mile hike. Camping can be conducted in many areas, especially backcountry areas, but these campgrounds require a permit. All of these campgrounds are dog friendly, as are many of the hiking trails. Visitors can stay in one of three lodges in the park, including Big Meadows, which holds the Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center, and Skyland Resort.

Image Caption: View of the heart of Shenandoah National Park at the height of the fall “leaf-peeping” season. Credit: Robert Simmon/Wikipedia