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The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginiamarker and West Virginiamarker in the United States. The valley is bound to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians (excluding Massanutten Mountainmarker), 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 rivermarker that stretches much of its length, the Shenandoah Valley encompasses eight 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 Ferrymarker in the north, where the Shenandoah Rivermarker 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 Mountainmarker range, with the smaller associated Page Valleymarker lying to its east and the Fort Valleymarker 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."

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.


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 Gapmarker 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 Gapmarker and reached the river at Elkton, VAmarker, 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.

Later colonists called this route the Great Wagon Road, and it became the major thoroughfare for immigrants moving by wagons from Pennsylvaniamarker 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 Virginiamarker, 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 Germanmarker settlers, known as "Shenandoah Deitsch", many Scots-Irish immigrants came south in the 1730s from Pennsylvaniamarker 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. 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.

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.

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 Marylandmarker, Washingtonmarker and Pennsylvaniamarker. Because of its strategic importance it was the scene of three major campaigns. The first was the Valley Campaign of 1862marker, 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 Waynesboromarker in the south, running through the Page Valleymarker to Front Royalmarker, and on to Harpers Ferrymarker, 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 Access Rail Commuter trains utilize the old B&O line from stations in Martinsburgmarker, Duffieldsmarker, and Harper's Ferry to Washington Union Stationmarker 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 Luraymarker and weekday service between Luraymarker and Front Royal; and Winchester Transit, which provides weekday transit for the city of Winchestermarker. In addition, Shenandoah Valley Commuter Bus Service offers weekday commuter bus service from the northern Shenandoah Valley, including Shenandoah Countymarker and Warren Countymarker, to Northern Virginia (Arlington Countymarker and Fairfax Countymarker) and Washingtonmarker. Origination points in Shenandoah County include Woodstockmarker. Origination points in Warren County include Front Royalmarker and Lindenmarker.

See also


External links

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