22 May 1926, Congress authorized the establishment of Shenandoah National Park. It became fully established on 26 December 1935
Size and Visitation
The total acreage is 196,466.19, including 79,579 acres of the designated wilderness area.
The highest visitation is during the fall color season and the summer months. Traffic can be heavy on Skyline Drive during these weekends.
Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge, which forms the eastern rampart of the Appalachian Mountains between Pennsylvania and Georgia. In the valley to the west is the Shenandoah River, from which some feel the Park gets its name, and between the north and south forks of the river is Massanutten, a 40 mile long mountain. To the east is the rolling Piedmont country. Providing vistas of the spectacular landscape is Skyline Drive, a winding road that runs along the crest of this portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains through the length of the Park.
Most of the rocks that form the Blue Ridge are ancient granitic and metamorphosed volcanic formations, some exceeding 1 billion years in age. By comparison, humans have been associated with this land for about 11,000 years. Native Americans used this land for centuries but left little of the evidence of their presence. European settlement of the Shenandoah Valley began soon after the first expedition crossed the Blue Ride in 1716. Many of the settlers came "up river", north and south, from Pennsylvania. By 1800, the lowlands had been settled by farmers, while the rugged mountains were relatively untouched. Later, as valley farmland became scarce, settlements spread into the mountains. The mountain farmers cleared land, hunted wildlife, and grazed sheep and cattle. By the 20th century, these people had developed cultural traits of their own, born from the harshness and isolation of mountain living. However, the forests were shrinking, game animals were disappearing, the thin mountain soil was wearing out, and people were beginning to leave.
In 1926 Congress authorized the establishment of Shenandoah National Park. The Commonwealth of Virginia purchased nearly 280 square miles of land to be donated to the Federal Government. More than half of the population had left the mountain area, and the remaining residents sold their land or were relocated, with government assistance. In dedicating the park in 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated a novel experiment in allowing an over used area to return to a natural state. The Civilian Conservation Corps built recreational facilities, and in 1939 Skyline Drive was completed. Corpsland and pastures soon became over grown with shrubs, locusts, and pine; these in turn were replaced by oak, hickory and other trees that make up a mature deciduous forest. Now, more than 95 percent of the park is covered by forests with about 100 species of trees. The vegetative regeneration has been so complete that in 1976 Congress designated two-fifths of the park as a wilderness. Today the park faces many new challenges, as air quality declines, forest pests invade, and land use patterns around the area change. The largest remaining open area is Big Meadows, which is kept in its historically open condition. Here, wildflowers, strawberries, and blueberries attract wildlife and humans.
Peoples Before the Park
For at least 10,000 years people have lived on the Blue Ridge Mountains. Prehistoric humans have hunted and gathered game, fruit, nuts, and berries on the upland slopes, and some may have constructed permanent villages at the lowest elevations near the Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley.
The earliest European settlers moved into the lower areas of the mountain range by the mid-18th century, ever moving upward in search of land for farming, grazing, and orchards. Later, some owners purchased mountain land for the extraction of resources: copper, lumber, bark for tanning of leather, and water power for the operation of mills. Others early saw the beauty of the Blue Ridge as a commercial product in itself, and built resorts catering to visitors from the cities.
Stony Man Camp
When budding naturalist and 16 year old George Freeman Pollock first visited the Blue Ridge Mountains in the early 1880s, his goal was to collect biological specimens on a property partially owner by his father and the site of an abortive copper mining and smelting operation in the early 1850s. He left the area, however, determined to develop it as a summer resort.
By 1895, after many false starts and setbacks, Pollock's Stony Man Camp was a viable enterprise and his yearly promotional brochure stated that the resort was not for the elite, nor the fashionable, but for those seeking simple and rustic healthy retreat. Pollock's camp was not intended to rival the "cottages" of Newport, nor the "camps" of the Adirondacks or Maine, but to be a rustic gathering place for educated, professional, upper-middle-class urban families from eastern metropolitan areas.
Stony Man Camp, later renamed Skyland, became a destination and summer residence for Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, and Philadelphia politicians, educators, artists, and Federal employees. Pollock's "events": medieval jousts, "Indian Pow-Wows", cakewalks, bonfires, and costume balls, provided the focus of a seasonal society that reflected the radical changes in the larger society.
Pollock's Skyland and his guests accurately reflect the changes in American society: the changes in fashion, the changes in taste, the changes in morals, and the changes in a women's "place" in society.
History of the Civilian Conservation Corps
"...not a Panacea for all the unemployment, but an essential step in this emergency..."
President Franklin Roosevelt
By March of 1933, 13,600,000 people were unemployed in the United States. Because of this emergency, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, only two days after his inauguration, called a meeting of high government officials to create a Civilian Conservation Corps. The plan was to put 500,000 unemployed youths to work in forests, parks and range lands.
The Army would run the camps. The Departments of Interior and Agriculture would be responsible for work projects and provide the personnel to manage them. The Budget Director would provide the financial assistance, and the solicitor and judge advocate would offer legal advice. Rather than establishing a new bureaucracy, the president established this program within existing governmental departments.
The boys to be enrolled were unemployed, between the ages of 18 and 25 and unmarried. They were to come from families on relief. The enrollment period was for six months with the opportunity to re-enlist for six month increments not to exceed two years. Each enrollee was paid $30 a month, of which $25 was sent to his family. The remaining $5 could be used by the enrollee at the camp canteen or for personal expenses of his choice. Room, board, clothing and tools were provided by the government. The enrollee was expected to work a 40-hour week and to follow the camp rules. While serving in these camps, each enrollee was taught a new skill and could also attend classes to better his education.
Although projects were abundant in every state in the union, the CCCs of Virginia's major jobs were instituted in Virginia's national and state parks and forests in reforestation, fire protection, and recreation facilities. The state's parks and forests were greatly improved by the Corps. National Historic Sites at Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania were developed. More than 75,100 men from the state and surrounding states were enrolled and more than 107,000 men served there. An average of 63 camps a year were operated with a total financial obligation within the state of more than $108,900,000. This was not a bad price considering that the program lasted nine years and was a national program consisting of tens of thousands of projects which are still in full use today
Wilderness...the word has different meanings to different people, but here in Shenandoah National Park, wilderness is something special. Of the park's nearly 196,000 acres 79,579 have been designated by Congress as wilderness. But what does this mean?
In 1964, the Congress of the United States passed a law known as the Wilderness Act, which created a National Wilderness Preservation System to provide an "enduring resource of wilderness" for future generations. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law on September 3, 1964. Today, over 100 million acres across the country are protected as wilderness.
Wilderness, according to the Wilderness Act, "...in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." The Wilderness Act goes on to describe wilderness as a place "retaining its primeval character and influence" where there are "outstanding opportunities for solitude".
When the Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System, most of the wilderness areas created under the Act were located in the west. Areas in the east, such as Shenandoah National Park, did not meet the definition of wilderness. In 1975, Congress passed the Eastern Wilderness Act which aimed to include eastern wild areas, which showed signs of human use, but were now returning to a natural state, in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
The Eastern Wilderness Act set the stage for wilderness designation in Shenandoah National Park. At the park's establishment, the land showed signs of human use. As time went on, nature began to reclaim the park and a wilder Shenandoah emerged.
In 1976, Congress designated 79,019 acres of Shenandoah National Park as wilderness to be protected as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. In 1978, an additional 560 acres were designated as wilderness, and today, over 40% of the park, 79,579 acres is wilderness.
The park's wilderness areas offer outstanding opportunities for solitude and recreation. Many park trails pass through designated wilderness giving visitors the opportunity to explore and enjoy this unique resource. Extra care should be taken when exploring Shenandoah's wilderness. Visitors who wish to experience these areas should prepare their trips well in advance and should practice the principles of Leave No Trace so that the park's wilderness is protected for future generations of explorers.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a public footpath across 2,144 miles of Appalachian Mountain ridgelines from Maine to Georgia and was designed, constructed, and marked in the 1920s and 1930s by volunteer hiking clubs joined together by the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC).
Formed in 1925 and now a non profit organization based in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the ATC had the National Park Service, Forest Service, states, and local communities as active partners in the trail project from the beginning.
A "super trail" was much talked about in turn-of-the-century hiking circles of New England. "The AT" evolved from the 1921 proposals of Massachusetts regional planner Benton MacKaye to preserve the Appalachian crests as an accessible, multi purpose wilderness belt�a retreat from Eastern urban life. The old clubs that united behind MacKaye, plus the new clubs formed specifically to advance the AT idea, concentrated on the hiking aspects of his vision, under the leadership of Myron H. Avery, ATC chairman from 1931 to 1952.
The hiking clubs, the two federal agencies, states, and the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps combined forces to open a continuous trail by August 1937. Hurricanes, highway construction, and demands of World War II undid those efforts until 1951 saw all sections finally relocated, opened, and marked for hikers and nature lovers.
The 1968 National Trails System Act made the AT a linear national park and authorized funds to surround the entire route with public lands, either federal or state, protected from incompatible uses.
Can you imagine the Blue Ridge Mountains being as high as the Rocky Mountains or the Himalayas? Geologists think that the mountains making up Shenandoah National Park are among the oldest in the world, having been worn and eroded to their current top elevation of 4,049 ft.
The oldest rocks in Shenandoah National Park were formed between 1 and 1.2 billion years ago. These granitic rocks can be seen at Old Rag Mountain and Mary's Rock Tunnel. Two other major rock types you can see in the park include basalts, made from individual lava flows, each 30 to 90 feet deep, formed about 570 million years ago; and sedimentary rocks (including sandstone, quartzite and phyllite) formed later.
Cliffs and rock cuts along Skyline Drive give travelers an opportunity to examine rock formations closely. To get a view of the park's rock history from your car, stop at the overlooks at Mary's Rock Tunnel (Mile 32.4), Crescent Rock (Mile 44.4), or Franklin Cliffs (Milepost 49). Good hikes for rock lovers include Mary's Rock, Stony Man Nature Trail, Little Stony Man Cliffs, Bearfence rock scramble, and Old Rag boulder scramble.
Information provided from the National Park Service
Activities & Calendar
Address & Phone
Be Bear Aware
Brochures, Maps, Written Info
Civilian Conservation Corps
Horseback Riding Info
Jobs, SCA, Volunteer Positions
Junior Ranger Program
Natural Resources Guide
Seasons of Shenandoah
Stony Man Camp
Virginia White Tailed Deer
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