Shen Valley Magazine is hot off the press and can be found in many outlets throughout the readership area. It is a quarterly, lifestyle publication about the culture and community of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Jessie Knadler, editor of Shen Valley magazine asked me to write an article for the premier issue on what exactly is the Shenandoah Valley. The readership of the magazine covers a portion of Valley, namely Rockbridge, Augusta, and Rockingham Counties in Virginia. When Jessie asked me to do it I explained that Rockbridge County wasn’t in the Shenandoah Valley and she asked me what my source was. I had to take a cerebral breath. “hmm…,” I stalled. After a moment I chuckled and said, “knowledge.”
She said she would need a source. Click on the image for a closer look.
The article is posted below and can also be accessed on the Shen Valley Magazine website. Read on to find out why the Shenandoah Valley is so special.
What Exactly is the Shenandoah Valley
by Robert Whitescarver (as published in Shen Vally Magazine)
I really hate to break it to you but Rockbridge County is not technically part of the Shenandoah Valley.
I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, right. (Who is this guy?)” But bear with me for a second.
According to the tourism industry, the Shenandoah Valley is an area in western Virginia flanked on the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the west by the Alleghenies, to the north by the Potomac River and to the south by the James River. Rockbridge, Augusta, and Rockingham Counties form the southern portion of this region.
Hydrologists, and others who study the flow of water in relation to the land, however, disagree with this definition. The Shenandoah Valley, as defined by how water flows from the land into ditches, creeks, streams, and rivers, begins in the headwaters of the North, Middle and South Rivers in Augusta County. These three rivers join together near Port Republic in Rockingham County to form the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. All of Rockbridge County’s creeks and rivers flow to the James River, not the Shenandoah.
Where surface water comes from and where it goes can be described as a watershed. Do you live in a watershed? Of course, everyone does. Where does the water go when it runs off your roof? Follow the flow and discover what watershed you live in. Everything we do on the land affects the quality of the water in that watershed because surface water flows across and through the land.
If the tourism folks want to say Rockbridge is in the Shenandoah Valley, well, that’s okay (the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail folks include Rockbridge so it must be true). Rockbridge is culturally part of the Valley, that is for sure.
The Valley Should Be a World Heritage Site
Regardless of where you live in this great Valley, it’s pretty darn special—blue mountains filled with tall trees and fertile soil that grows just about anything. In my opinion, this Valley should be a United Nations World Heritage Site. It’s spectacularly beautiful and fertile.
As a matter of fact, agriculture is the number one industry in this region because of our ultra-productive soil, adequate rainfall and a large population of knowledgeable, passionate farmers.
The reason the soil is so productive is because most of it is born from limestone. These soils are deep, fertile, and well-drained, great for growing grass for livestock, hay, timber, apples, produce, grapes, hops, and much more.
Did you know Rockingham County is the number one agricultural county (total agricultural products sold) in Virginia, followed by Augusta? Rockbridge ranks thirty-third, according to the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture. But don’t feel bad, Rockbridge residents—you have more wineries than Augusta!
Limestone helps define us here in the Valley. It not only gives us our great soil, but it also gives us caverns such as Grand Caverns in Grottoes and the Caverns at Natural Bridge. Natural Bridge, Virginia’s newest state park, is made of—you guessed it—limestone. Chalk up another one for Rockbridge.
Limestone and limestone-rich soil are why this Valley is so beautiful, with cows grazing on luscious green pastures, fields of corn and wheat, and vineyards that produce some of the best wines in Virginia. Maybe that’s why tourism is the second largest industry here. People come from all over the world to see our farmland … born from limestone.
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Beautifully written article! Nice clarification of the southern portion of the Shenandoah Valley…I didn’t know about Rockbridge County being in the Valley and I agree that that our Valley (Milan & I live in the Northern, apple country, Portion) should be a World Heritage site, such precious biodiversity in our valley. Looks like a great magazine, thank you for sharing about it.
Aye, this new magazine is working with an outstanding farmer/conservationist/writer.
Hope Shen Mag. continues articles about the many positives of the whole Shen. River (& Rockbridge Co. too!) plus the many efforts underway and planned to improve her health, habitats and tourism appeal, while growing population, polluted runoff and extensive agriculture runoff issues must be practically managed.
Thanks for stopping in John and Cindy. Merry Christmas.
Great article as always, Bobby! First sentence I believe the “of” should be an “off” but the content is spot on and insightful.
Thanks, Jules. I corrected that. And thanks for posting. Merry Christmas.
When we moved here in 1980, an elderly neighbor remarked that there weren’t as many rocks here when she was young. At the time I shrugged and assumed this was age related senile dementia talking. But I now I know she was right. Consider what over grazing and general poor soil conservation practices have wrought. In 1900, there were 96 mills in Augusta County. Those mills were supported by one heck of a lot of acres of soil disturbing wheat cultivation practices. I try to Imagine what this valley looked like with that deep top soil, native tall grasses and those towering chestnut trees.
Lovely, Leo. Thanks for posting.
Bobby, Wonderful article. And many thanks for introducing me to the Shen Valley magazine. I’ve subscribed. My watershed is the Chesapeake Bay as I live along the North River near where it is joined by the Middle River. So I’m sure I live in the Shenandoah Valley as I tell everyone I meet for the 1st time! I travel outside the U.S. fairly often and am amazed when folks from other countries recognize our Valley’s name and, often, our “VA is for Lovers” location.
You’re right on about what makes the Valley spectacularly beautiful. It’s too bad that the very limestone you note as contributing so positively to our soil (and our economy) is potentially so endangered by the ACP.
Joy, thanks for your comment. The water leaving our farm flows past your property. We are on the Middle River. We recently had 23 miles taken off the dirty waters list of Virginia because of all the work farmers do to lessen their impact. So true, the ACP, if constructed, will devastate the quality of our river and many others. I do not believe it will ever be built.