Shenandoah Valley: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shenandoah Valley
A view across the Shenandoah Valley
Location Virginia, West Virginia
Axis Direction North-South
Geographic boundaries Blue Ridge Mountains (east)
Ridge and Valley Appalachians (west)
Potomac River (north)
James River (south)
Population Centers Winchester
Martinsburg, West Virginia
Traversed by U.S. Route 50, U.S. Route 33,
U.S. Route 250, Interstate 64
Transversed by U.S. Route 11, Interstate 81
Map of the Shenandoah Valley
A poultry farm with the Blue Ridge Mountains in background
A farm in the fertile Shenandoah Valley

The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians (excluding Massanutten Mountain), to the north by the Potomac River and to the south by the James River. The cultural region covers a larger area that includes all of the valley plus the Virginia highlands to the west, and the Roanoke Valley to the south. It is physiographically located within the Ridge and Valley province and is a portion of the Great Appalachian Valley.



Named for the river that stretches much of its length, the Shenandoah Valley encompasses nine counties in Virginia and two counties in West Virginia:

In addition, the cultural region also includes five more counties in Virginia:

Between the Roanoke Valley in the south and Harpers Ferry in the north, where the Shenandoah River joins the Potomac, the Valley cultural region contains 10 independent cities:

The central section of the Shenandoah Valley is split in half by the Massanutten Mountain range, with the smaller associated Page Valley lying to its east and the Fort Valley within the mountain range.


Notable caves

The Shenandoah Valley contains a number of geologically and historically significant limestone caves:


The word Shenandoah is of unknown Native American origin. It has been described as being derived from the Anglicization of Native American resulting in words such as: Gerando, Gerundo, Genantua, Shendo and Sherando. Likewise the meaning of these words is of some question. Schin-han-dowi, the "River Through the Spruces", On-an-da-goa, the "River of High Mountains" or "Silver-Water, and an Iroquois word for "Big Meadow" have all been proposed by Native American etymologists. The most popular and romanticized belief is that it comes from a Native American expression for "Beautiful Daughter of the Stars."[1]

Another legend relates that it is derived from the name of the Iroquoian Chief Sherando, who had fought with Chief Opechancanough, ruler of the Powhatan Confederacy 1618-1644. Opechancanough liked the country so much that he sent his son Sheewa-a-nee with a large party to colonize the valley. Sheewa-a-nee drove Sherando back to his home in the Great Lakes, and descendants of Sheewanee's party, according to this account, became the Shawnee. Another branch of Sherandos called the Senedos, according to tradition, had lived in present-day Shenandoah County, but were exterminated by "Southern Indians" (Cherokees) some few years before the arrival of white settlers.[2][3]


The Shenandoah Valley was presumably explored by French before 1632, for it appeared on Samuel Champlain's map published in that year.

Despite the Valley's productive agricultural farmland, colonial settlement from the east was long delayed by the barrier of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These were crossed by explorers John Lederer at Manassas Gap in 1671, Batts and Fallam the same year, and Cadwallader Jones in 1682. Swissmen Franz Ludwig Michel and Christoph von Graffenried also explored and mapped the Valley in 1706 and 1712, respectively. Von Graffenried reported that the Indians of "Senantona" (Shenandoah) had been alarmed by news of the recent Tuscarora War in North Carolina.

Governor Alexander Spotswood's legendary Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition of 1716 also crossed the Blue Ridge at Swift Run Gap and reached the river at Elkton, VA, but settlers still did not immediately follow.

The Valley Pike (or Valley Turnpike) began as the Great Warriors Trail, a native road through common hunting grounds shared by several tribes settled around the periphery, which included Iroquoian, Siouan and Algonquian tribes. Known native settlements within the actual Valley were few, but included Shawnees occupying the region around Winchester, and Tuscaroras around what is now Martinsburg, WV. In the late 1720s and 1730s, Quakers and Mennonites began to move in from Pennsylvania, and were tolerated by the natives, while "Long Knives" (English settlers from coastal Virginia colony) were less welcomed. During these same decades, the valley route continued to be used by maurading bands of Seneca (Iroquois) and Lenape en route from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to commit depredations against the distant Catawba in the Carolinas, with whom they were at war. The Catawba would then pursue these parties northward in retaliation, generally overtaking them by the time they reached the Potomac, and leading to several pitched battles fought in the Valley region, as attested by the earliest settlers.[4]

Later colonists called this route the Great Wagon Road, and it became the major thoroughfare for immigrants moving by wagons from Pennsylvania and northern Virginia into the backcountry of the South. The road was macadamized prior to the Civil War and later refined and paved for motor vehicles. In the 20th century, the Valley Turnpike was a toll road. Then it was acquired by the Commonwealth of Virginia, which incorporated it into the state highway system as U.S. Highway 11. For much of its length, the newer Interstate 81 parallels the old Valley Pike.

Along with the first German settlers, known as "Shenandoah Deitsch", many Scots-Irish immigrants came south in the 1730s from Pennsylvania into the valley, via the Potomac River. The Scots-Irish comprised the largest group of immigrants from the British Isles before the Revolutionary War, and most migrated into the backcountry of the South.[5] This was in contrast to the chiefly English immigrants who had settled the Virginia Tidewater and eastern Piedmont regions.

Governor Spotswood had arranged the Treaty of Albany with the Iroquois (Six Nations) in 1721, whereby they had agreed not to come east of the Blue Ridge in their raiding parties on tribes farther to the South. In 1736, the Iroquois began to object, claiming that they still legally owned the land to the west of the Blue Ridge; this led to a skirmish with Valley settlers in 1743. The Iroquois were on the verge of declaring war on the Virginia Colony as a result, when Governor Gooch paid them the sum of 100 pounds sterling for any settled land in the Valley that was claimed by them. The following year at the Treaty of Lancaster, the Iroquois sold all their remaining claim to the Valley for 200 pounds in gold.[6]

The few Shawnees who still resided in the Valley abruptly headed westward in 1754, having been approached the year before by emissaries from their kindred beyond the Alleghanies.[7]

The Shenandoah Valley was known as the breadbasket of the Confederacy during the Civil War and seen as a back door for Confederate raids on Maryland, Washington and Pennsylvania. Because of its strategic importance it was the scene of three major campaigns. The first was the Valley Campaign of 1862, in which Confederate General Stonewall Jackson defended the valley against three numerically superior Union armies. The final two were the Valley Campaigns of 1864. First, in the summer of 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early cleared the valley of its Union occupiers and then proceeded to raid Maryland, Pennsylvania and D.C. Then during the fall, Union General Philip Sheridan was sent to drive Early from the valley and once-and-for-all destroy its use to the Confederates by putting it to the torch using scorched-earth tactics. The valley, especially in the lower northern section, was also the scene of bitter partisan fighting as the region's inhabitants were deeply divided over loyalties and Confederate partisan John Mosby and his Rangers frequently operated in the area.

In the late 20th century, the valley's vineyards began to reach maturity. They constituted the new industry of the Shenandoah Valley American Viticultural Area.


Transportation in the Shenandoah Valley consists mainly of road and rail and contains several metropolitan area transit authorities. The main north-south road transportation is Interstate 81, which parallels the old Valley Turnpike (U.S. Route 11) through its course in the valley. In the lower valley, on the eastern side, U.S. Route 340 also runs north-south, starting from Waynesboro in the south, running through the Page Valley to Front Royal, and on to Harpers Ferry, where it exits the valley. Major east-west roads cross the valley as well, providing access to the Piedmont and the Allegheny Mountains. Starting from the north, these routes include: U.S. Route 50, U.S. Route 522, Interstate 66, U.S. Route 33, U.S. Route 250, Interstate 64, and U.S. Route 60.

CSX Transportation operates several rail lines through the valley, including the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the old Manassas Gap Railroad and the old Virginia Central Railroad. There are also more modern lines that run the length of the valley parallel to the Valley Pike and U.S. 340. The rail lines are primarily used for freight transportation, though Maryland Area Rail Commuter (MARC) trains utilize the old B&O line from stations in Martinsburg, Duffields, and Harper's Ferry to Washington Union Station and vice-versa.

Several localities in the valley also operate public transportation systems, including Front Royal Area Transit (FRAT), which provides weekday transit for the town of Front Royal; Page County Transit, providing weekday transit for the town of Luray and weekday service between Luray and Front Royal; and Winchester Transit, which provides weekday transit for the city of Winchester. In addition, Shenandoah Valley Commuter Bus Service offers weekday commuter bus service from the northern Shenandoah Valley, including Shenandoah County and Warren County, to Northern Virginia (Arlington County and Fairfax County) and Washington. Origination points in Shenandoah County include Woodstock. Origination points in Warren County include Front Royal and Linden.

See also


  1. ^ Davis, Julia. The Shenandoah. Rivers of America. Farrar&Rinehart, Inc. New York. 1945. pp. 20-21.
  2. ^ Carrie Hunter Willis and Etta Belle Walker, 1937, Legends of the Skyline Drive and the Great Valley of Virginia, p. 15-16.
  3. ^ Doddridge, p. 31.
  4. ^ Joseph Doddridge, 1850, A History of the Valley of Virginia p. 1-46
  5. ^ David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989,, pp.605-608
  6. ^ Joseph Solomon Walton, 1900, Conrad Weiser and the Indian Policy of Colonial Pennsylvania p. 76-121.
  7. ^ Doddridge, p.44-45

External links

Coordinates: 38°29′N 78°51′W / 38.483°N 78.85°W / 38.483; -78.85

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The Shenandoah Valley is located in the western part of Virginia and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. The region is best known for its natural beauty and Civil War history.

In addition to these cities Charles Town, Hedgesville, Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry in West Virginia are considered to be part of the valley.


The Shenandoah Valley is formed by two mountain ranges, the Blue Ridge on the east and the Appalachian on the west. Another mountain ridge, the Massanutten, runs down the middle, as does the Shenandoah River. The Shenandoah Valley is believed to have been named by a lost Native American tribe. The meaning of the name is disputed, but the most popular interpretation is “daughter of the stars”.

Intrepid Englishmen began to explore and settle the valley in the early 18th century. Germans and Scots-Irish first entered the valley from the north in the 1730s. A young George Washington worked in the area as a surveyor for Lord Fairfax. Locals such as Daniel Morgan, Peter Muhlenberg, and George Rogers Clark distinguished themselves during the war of Independence.

During the Civil War, the Shenandoah Valley was the site of many battles, primarily because the region’s moniker, “the breadbasket of the Confederacy”. If Union troops could control the valley, they would cut off a large portion of the Confederate troops’ rations. The city of Winchester, at the northern end of the valley, traded hands over eighty times during the war. The most important battle fought in the region was the Battle of New Market.


Most residents of the Shenandoah Valley speak only English. There is a local dialect to the valley. It ranges from an Appalachian (apple-ATCH-in) twang to a southern drawl.

  • Interstate 66 from D.C.
  • Interstate 64 West from Richmond, East from West Virginia

Get around

A car is essential for touring the region.

  • Interstate 81 runs the length of the valley
  • Skyline Drive, one of the most scenic routes in the country, is located in Shenandoah National Park.
  • Shenandoah National Park runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains from the town of Front Royal to the Waynesboro area. Skyline Drive, the main route through the park, is busiest in autumn due to the colorful foliage.
  • Luray Caverns, Luray, Virginia. The wealth of limestone in the Shenandoah Valley has created many caverns, Luray being the most famous. Along with various stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations named after gods and goddesses, the cavern boasts an organ that taps stalactites to produce different notes.
  • New Market Battlefield, New Market, Virginia. The site of a famous Civil War battle, in which the young cadets of VMI marched for four days to challenge and defeat Union troops moving down the valley. A state park, two museums, and a yearly reenactment bring their story to life.
  • Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge, Virginia. Worshipped by the Monacan Indians, owned by Thomas Jefferson, and defaced by a young George Washington, this limestone arch is a natural wonder and historic site rolled into one.
  • Winchester. This great old town is the first colonial town in the Valley. It has a wonderful historic district with a nice pedestrian mall. The town is full of excellent restaurants, shops and museums. There is one very old inn downtown with a pineapple sign hanging on the porch, plus there is the recently restored George Washington Hotel. George Washington spend much of his time in Winchester. The town was important during the French and Indian War, the Revolution, and War Between The States Winchester was also home to Country Music Legend, Patsy Cline.  edit
  • Shenandoah National Park provides many opportunities for hiking (including a portion of the Appalachian Trail), fishing, and horseback riding.
  • Shenandoah River, Front Royal, Virginia. The quirky town at the northern end of Shenandoah National Park has been dubbed the “canoe capital of Virginia”.
  • Apple Blossom Festival, Winchester, Virginia. Held each spring, this festival includes carnivals, pageants, parades, and a circus as part of the celebrations.
  • Route 11 Potato Chips, Middletown. Slightly pricey but delicious chips, which come in a variety of flavors.
  • Shenandoah Valley Apples Though many of the valley's orchards have shut down, you can still find excellent apple cider, apple sauce, and fresh, crunchy apples in Autumn. White House Foods, based in Winchester, processes many of these products.
  • Oasis Winery, Hume. One of the top rated wineries in Virginia, though service and ambiance have declined in recent years due to increase in popularity.
  • Daily Grind, Winchester. The national franchise's original coffee house, located on the Old Town walking mall.
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