It’s the scene of beautiful drives, exciting hikes, and stunning fall vistas. Its northern entrance station is located in Front Royal. It’s Shenandoah National Park. Views of the tree covered slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains are gorgeous from Shenandoah National Park in the fall. The leaf colors are slowly changing, putting on a fantastic display. All this beauty draws in the crowds, making October Shenandoah National Park’s busiest month. In honor of another beautiful fall in Shenandoah National Park, we’re taking a look at the history of this popular Virginia destination. Read on for five fun facts about the story of Shenandoah National Park.
1. Shenandoah National Park has a Different Story from the National Parks of the West
The earliest national parks sprung up on the federally owned lands of the west. They were based around preserving natural wonders for public enjoyment. Thus, the Grand Canyon, the geologic wonders and amazing wildlife of Yellowstone, and the towering rock faces of Yosemite were all obvious selections. In the 1920s, a committee was formedto select an area in the east so that those unable to travel to the west could still have a national park to enjoy. Thus, Shenandoah National Park and its sister park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park came to be.
2. Shenandoah National Park once had Human Inhabitants
Because Shenandoah National Park was created less organically than the parks of the west, the area chosen for the park already had private landholders and residents. One of the earliest stages in the process of building the park was purchasing privately owned land and evicting squatters who had lived on the land without owning it for generations. Some landowners and residents were happy to comply. Others resisted until they were forcibly evicted. In order to allay public uneasiness with this process, several reporters visited the area. They painted a picture of the mountain people as near-savages who would be better off resettled in more urban civilization. It now seems that these reports were exaggerated or even falsified. The U.S. government’s treatment of these mountain residents remains controversial to this day. Today, remains of the homes of these early inhabitants can still be seen at the park.
3. Many of Shenandoah National Park’s areas of Wilderness were Planted
Because Shenandoah National Park had been the site of human settlements, areas of the forests had been cleared for orchards, pastures, gardens, and human habitations. One of the jobs of the park’s builders was to destroy human habitations, orchards, and farmlands, and replant these areas with native species. A nursery was even established for this purpose at Big Meadows.
In 1933, President Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide work for young men and relieve the unemployment crisis of the Great Depression. The President established six CCC camps in Shenandoah National Park in 1933. These civilian workers completed much of the important work on the national park, including working on the park’s central roadway (Skyline Drive) as well as building trails, picnic sites, bathrooms, and more.
5. Skyline Drive was Meant to Give Travelers a Sense of Flying
When Shenandoah National Park was built, car travel was becoming popular, but airplane travel and skyscrapers were still uncommon. Driving along Skyline Drive, atop the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was the closest many residents of the Eastern United States ever got to flying. With sweeping panoramas on either side, it’s easy to see why taking a spin along Skyline Drive makes you feel on top of the world!
With its northern entrance station in the town of Front Royal, Shenandoah National Park is a great fall destination. Enjoy an amazing fall adventure at the park, and don’t forget to check out delicious dining and exciting shopping in Front Royal on your way in or out.
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