The park itself is
always open, but they close some portions of the Skyline Drive, the
only road through Shenandoah National Park, from dusk to early
morning during hunting season. The park closes the road in inclement
weather for safety reasons. Visitor facilities and services begin
operating between early April and Memorial Day and close down by
The oldest rocks in
the Blue Ridge Mountains were created over a billion years ago as
magma deep within the earth's crust moved upward. Over eons it
cooled, fractured, and was joined by younger metamorphic rocks
formed from sedimentary deposits. All were altered and eroded to
shape today's granite peaks and sylvan hollows.
Around 10,000 years
ago, but seconds in geologic time, the first traces of humans were
recorded on the land that would become the park. Native Americans
seasonally visited the area to hunt, to gather nuts and berries, and
to find sources for and to make their stone tools.
experienced the beauty of these mountains less than 300 years ago.
First came hunters and trappers, and soon after 1750 the first
settlers moved into the lower hollows near springs and streams. Over
the next century and a half many hundreds of families built
homesteads, mills and stores and planted orchards and crops.
mountains were logged and minerals were mined. Vacation resorts were
established to allow guests to experience the mountain views,
healthy water, and cool breezes. And American Society became urban,
industrial, and yearned for special places for recreation and
In the early 20th
century the first calls for National parks in the east were heard in
the United States Congress. It would be two decades before
Shenandoah National Park was authorized and another ten years before
it was established.
During that time President and Lou Henry Hoover
established their Summer White House on the Rapidan River, the
construction of Skyline Drive began, the Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) was established and moved into the park area, and over 450
families of mountain residents were relocated from the Blue Ridge.
establishment of the park in December 1935, the CCC began to build
visitor facilities throughout the mountain, areas that were
initially racially segregated. The core of the park's development
was completed by the beginning of WWII and, to a great extent, the
mountains were released to nature.
Skyline Drive is
not just a 105-mile road through the park; it is a way to experience
it. Drivers will pass rock cliffs, and vistas, and probably deer and
other wildlife; they will drive through tunnels of trees, past
wildflowers and ferns, and (in late spring) by banks of mountain
laurel in bloom. 75 overlooks offer a place to stop and absorb the
view and the peace. The 35-miles-per-hour speed limit allows drivers
the opportunity to truly enjoy the ride and helps to ensure the
safety of wildlife along the road.
Hiking (over 500
miles of hiking trails), picnicking, camping in a developed
campground or backcountry camping with a permit (available at
visitor centers, entrance stations or park headquarters),
participating in ranger-guided activities, viewing audio-visual
programs or exhibits at visitor centers, fishing, enjoying the
panoramic views from overlooks, or just plain relaxing in the
peaceful surroundings are some of the favorite activities visitors
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