VA -- Shenandoah Natl Park (Skyline Drive):
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- Wikipedia Description: Skyline Drive
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article refers to the road in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. For the park itself, see Shenandoah National Park. For other roads named Skyline Drive, see Skyline Drive (disambiguation).
Skyline Drive is a 105 mile (169 km) road that runs the entire length of the National Park Service's Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, generally along the ridge of the mountains. The scenic drive is particularly popular in the fall when the leaves are changing colors. Annually, over two million people visit the Skyline Drive, which has been designated a National Scenic Byway.
Major entry points to Skyline Drive are:
* Front Royal, Virginia (U.S. Highway 340), the northern terminus
* Thornton Gap (U.S. Highway 211)
* Swift Run Gap (U.S. Highway 33)
* Rockfish Gap (Interstate 64, U.S. Highway 250), the southern terminus.
As of June 2007, the entry fee for all vehicles is $15 for a single car, and $10 for motorcycles. Passes, which are valid for unlimited entries within a seven-day period, are issued. Payment may be made with cash, credit, or debit cards. A year-long pass can be purchased for $30.
On the west side (right when travelling from north to south) of the drive mileposts are present. They are numbered from 0.0 to 105 (north to south). These are the reference points to directions in the drive.
The speed limit is 35 miles per hour (60 km/h). The road is very tortuous and hence such a limit is enforced. One might see stopped vehicles in the road either enjoying the wildlife or just turning to stop at an overlook. Bicycles, vehicles and pedestrians share the road. This requires extra precaution. There are also many deer, bear and other wildlife crossing the road, which can appear with no prior warning. The speed limit within the park is also strictly enforced by park police.
As the name suggests, the road takes a winding path along the mountaintops of the Blue Ridge Mountains east of the Shenandoah River. There are nearly seventy five overlooks throughout the drive. Some of the most spectacular views of the valley can be seen. During the drive (especially in early morning and late evening) wildlife can be seen on the road. Interestingly, Shenandoah National Park has one of the densest populations of black bears documented within the U.S., although these bears stay deep in the forest.
Apart from the drive, one can hike and even camp. There are numerous trails throughout, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail, which follows the road's path. Biking and horseback riding are other recreational activities which are allowed on the road. There are also visitors centers, cabins for rent, and even restaurants (the one at the Skyland Lodge gives diners a spectacular vista of the valley south of Luray).
There is a tunnel named "Mary Rock Tunnel" at mile 31 of the drive. The clearance is 12'8" (3.8 m). It is 670 feet (203 m) long.
At Rockfish Gap, the Blue Ridge Parkway begins, and continues a similar path along ridge tops through Virginia and into North Carolina, terminating at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Though the land immediately around the parkway is protected by the National Park Service, much of the parkway goes near private land, but it is, nonetheless, quite rustic and charming.
Further information:History of Shenandoah National Park
Begun as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during the Great Depression, construction of the Skyline Drive was both difficult and dangerous. Huge cuts were made into the sides of knolls and peaks to allow for a road wide enough to handle traffic. The work began in 1931, and the final section (from Swift Run Gap to Rockfish Gap) was completed and opened in 1939.
Since user fees are charged at entry points along the Skyline Drive, the Drive is sometimes mistaken as a toll road. The fee, however, is not a toll charged to drive on the road, but rather to enter, and enjoy, the park. A $15.00 pass is valid for up to seven days (as opposed to charging by the mile, or by the day, as toll roads do).
Shenandoah National Park
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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. Almost 40 % of the land area (79,579 acres/322 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).
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 state of Virginia slowly acquired the land through eminent domain (terms: "condemnation" in US or "compulsory purchase" in UK) laws and procedures from landowners and then gave it to the U.S. Government provided it would be designated a National Park.
In the creation of the park and Skyline Drive, 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 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.
In the early 1930s, the National Park Service began planning the park facilities and envisioned separate provisions for "colored guests," as African Americans were described in contemporaneous government documents. At that time, in Jim Crow Virginia, racial segregation was the order of the day. In its transfer of the parkland to the federal government, Virginia initially attempted to ban African Americans entirely from the park, but settled for enforcing its segregation laws in the park's facilities.
By the Thirties, there were several concessions operated by private firms within the park, some going back to the late 19th Century. These early private facilities at Skyland Resort, Panorama Resort, and Swift Run Gap, of course, were operated only for whites. By 1937, the Park Service accepted a bid from Virginia Sky-Line Company to take over the existing facilities and add new lodges, cabins, and other amenities, including Big Meadows Lodge. Under their plan, all the sites in the parks, save one, were for "Whites Only." Their plan included a separate facility for African Americans at Lewis Mountain -- a picnic ground, a smaller lodge, cabins and a campground. The site opened in 1939, and it was substantially inferior to the other park facilities. By then, however, the Interior Department was increasingly anxious to eliminate segregation from all parks. Pinnacles picnic ground was selected to be the initial integrated site in the Shenandoah, but Sky-Line continued to balk, and distributed maps showing Lewis Mountain as the only site for African Americans. During World War II, concessions closed and park usage plunged. But once the War ended, in December 1945, the NPS mandated that all concessions in all national parks were to be desegregated. In October 1947 the dining rooms of Lewis Mountain and Panorama were integrated and by early 1950, the mandate was fully accomplished.
Since 1977, nearly half of the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District, a nearby area affiliated with Shenandoah National Park, has been protected by preservation easements held by the National Park Service.
The park is best known for Skyline Drive, a 105 mile (169 km) road that runs the entire length of the park along the ridge of the mountains. The drive is particularly popular in the fall when the leaves are changing colors. 101 miles (162 km) of the Appalachian Trail are also in the park. In total, there are over 500 miles (800 km) of trails within the park. Of the trails, one of the most popular is Old Rag Mountain, which offers a thrilling rock scramble and some of the most breathtaking views in Virginia. There is also horseback riding, camping, bicycling, and many waterfalls. The Skyline Drive is designated as a National Scenic Byway.
Lodges are located at Skyland and Big Meadows. The Park's Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center is also located at Big Meadows. Another visitor center is located at Dickey Ridge. Campgrounds are located at Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, Lewis Mountain, and Loft Mountain.
Rapidan Camp, the restored historic (circa 1931) presidential fishing retreat of Herbert Hoover on the Rapidan River is accessed by a 4.1-mile round-trip hike on Mill Prong Trail, which begins on the Skyline Drive at Milam Gap (Mile 52.8). The NPS also offers guided van trips that leave from the Byrd Center at Big Meadows.
Shenandoah National Park is one of the most dog-friendly in the national park system. The campgrounds all allow dogs, and dogs are allowed on almost all of the trails including the Appalachian Trail, if kept on leash (6-feet or shorter).
Many waterfalls are located within the park boundaries. ...
Dark Hollow Falls Trail:
Dark Hollow Falls is another scenic trail of the Skyline drive which ends up in waterfalls. It is located near the Byrd Visitor Center. The trail is at the edge of a stream which enhances the enjoyment. During the hike, birds, butterflies, deer and occasionally black bear and timber rattlesnake can be seen, but these have not been known to harm any visitors.
Visitors who hike down to see the waterfall call it a worthwhile experience. The trail is a steep hike down about ¾ mile, with no restrooms or emergency shelter. Those who make this hike should be prepared, preferably carrying a bottle of water, and avoiding the hike altogether if there is any prediction of rain. The return trip up to the parking lot is very steep, and may be exhausting for some, especially older persons and those not accustomed to physical activity.
Stony Man Trail:
This is one of the most scenic trails in the skyline drive. It ends up at a cliff and offers a beautiful overlook. It is ideal to watch sunset. Pets and horses are not allowed in this trail.
The climate of the park is typical eastern mid-Atlantic woodland and only the highest points of the mountains show much change or alteration of typical flora and fauna species as might be found at sea level. On southwestern faces of some of the southernmost hillsides pine predominates and there is also the occasional prickly pear cactus which grows naturally. In contrast, some of the northeastern aspects are most likely to have small but dense stands of moisture loving hemlocks and mosses in abundance. Other commonly found plants include oak, hickory, chestnut, maple, tulip poplar, mountain laurel, milkweed, daisies, and many species of ferns. The once predominant American Chestnut tree was effectively brought to extinction by a fungus known as the Chestnut blight during the 1930s – though the tree continues to grow in the park, it does not reach maturity and dies back before it can reproduce. Various species of Oaks superseded the Chestnuts and became the dominant tree species. Gypsy moth infestations beginning in the early 1990s began to erode the dominance of the oak forests as the moths would primarily consume the leaves of oak trees. Though the Gypsy moths seem to have abated some, they continue to affect the forest and have destroyed almost 10 percent of the oak groves.
* Mammals include Whitetailed deer, black bear, bobcat, raccoon, skunk, opossum, groundhog, gray fox, and eastern cottontail rabbit. Though unsubstantiated, there have been some reported sightings of mountain lion in remote areas of the park.
* Over 200 species of birds make their home in the park for at least part of the year. About thirty live in the park year round, including barred owls, Carolina chickadees, Red-tailed Hawks, and wild turkeys. The Peregrine Falcon was reintroduced into the park in the mid 1990s and by the end of the 20th century there were numerous nesting pairs in the park.
* Thirty-two species of fish have been documented in the park, including brook trout, longnose and blacknose dance, and the bluehead chub.
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