Shenandoah National Park

Native Americans seasonally visited this area to hunt, gather food, source materials for stone tools, and trade. In the 1700s, European hunters and trappers explored the mountains of the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley. Soon after 1750, European settlers moved into the lower hollows near springs and streams. By the late 1800s an increasingly urban American society yearned for places of recreation and refuge. Enterprising spirits built vacation resorts, marketing the mountain views, healthy water, and cool breezes.

When the Great Depression struck in the 1920s, it was a death knell for the local communities. Between the Depression and the parks movement, many of the communities vanished from the landscape. Some remnants — old orchards, stone fence lines — linger, though time is slowly taking them over.

In 1926, Congress authorized the park, under the condition that no federal funds be used to purchase the land. The State of Virginia slowly acquired land along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, forming a 100-mile-long swath of parkland. Shenandoah National Park was born.

Three years later, the innate pressures of the office led Pres. Herbert Hoover in the summer of 1929 to establish his retreat in a shady dell of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains that proved to be the forerunner to today’s Camp David. He had three main requisites for what became the first official summer White House: it must be within 100 miles of Washington, stand at least 2,500 feet above sea level, and be on the banks of a trout stream. After all, Hoover told Americans on August 17, 1929, when he announced the decision to head to the Appalachian highlands, fishing is an excuse for return to the woods and streams with their retouch of the simpler life of the frontier from which every American springs. 

On December 26, 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the park at a ceremony in Big Meadows in 1936. Due to the segregation laws, the park was only for African-American visitors until 1950. Slowly, though, the Civil Rights Movement broke down many of those barriers. 

Grade: A

REFERENCE: Google Earth

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