Everything about Shenandoah Valley
One of the most historic locations in the eastern USA is the Shenandoah Valley, scene of ferocious conflict in the American Civil War when it was known as ‘The Breadbasket of the Confederacy’. It lies between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west, stretching for 320 km (200 mi) and consisting of seven counties in Virginia and two in West Virginia. It is a famously productive agricultural area and numerous heritage sites hark back to the efforts of early settlers.
The Shenandoah River runs for much of the valley’s length, as does US Highway 11 and the newer Interstate 81. Ignore the Interstate. A journey through the Shenandoah Valley must involve leisurely progress along US-11 – a former turnpike known as ‘The Great Valley Road’ – from Roanoke in the south to Harpers Ferry in the north, turning off along the way to explore tempting side roads. This trip will allow you to experience traditional ‘Mom and Apple pie America’ at its very best and provide real insight into the pioneer spirit that made the country great. The people are friendly and there’s usually some sort of festival, celebration or re-enactment to be found – history and tradition are important here.
Bounded by inhospitable mountains, the valley was not easily reached. But the relentless westward thrust of the pioneers saw Shenandoah’s first settlements in the 1730s. The wooded valley was soon partially cleared, creating today’s picture-postcard landscape that combines natural beauty with traditional farmsteads and historic towns with squares of buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, all testifying to the .energy and industry of those early arrivals. It’s said that such places are the backbone of America, and driving through the picturesque Shenandoah Valley it’s easy to believe that’s true.
Best highlights of Shenandoah Valley
The Frontier Culture Museum at Staunton, with reconstructed early farms, rare breed animals and a working smithy.
A picturesque village on the banks of Stoney Creek in the Central Valley, preserving the charm of 19th century life in a modern world. Shenandoah Valley Folk Art & Heritage Center in Dayton, Rockingham County – extensive exhibits of local culture and history.
Natural Bridge in suitably named Rockbridge County, one of the so-called ‘seven wonders of the modern world’ and a major tourist attraction for nearly 200 years.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The word ‘Shenandoah’ derives from a Native American expression meaning ‘Beautiful Daughter of the Stars’