Over two million people visit the park, and many of them drive the whole length of the Skyline Drive, especially in the fall of the year, when nature dresses up to celebrate the autumnal equinox. The colors are so spectacular that vehicle traffic slows to a near stop, as visitors pull over at the many overlooks to admire the scenery.
A brief history of the Shenandoah National Park
The creation of Shenandoah National Park was accomplished in 1926. The state of Virginia had been acquiring lands along the Blue Ridge Mountains for years, mainly through eminent domain, a process that was vehemently opposed by the residents of the 500 homes condemned by the state.
The park lands, nearly 280 square miles, were given over to the federal government. In 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the park, and at that time initiated a novel experiment. He requested that much of the overused farm lands be allowed to return to their natural state.
In doing this, pastures soon became over grown with shrubs, locusts, and pine trees. These were soon replaced by oak, hickory and other trees, making up a mature deciduous forest. Today, almost 95 percent of the park is forested with more than 100 species of trees.
The Skyline Drive
During the Great Depression, with so much of the nation's workforce idle, the Works Progress Administration was formed. The date was April 8, 1935. Known as the WPA, (its name was changed to the Works Projects Administration in 1939.) it was the biggest and the most ambitious undertaking by the government.
Millions of the unemployed were put to work on public works projects, including public buildings and roads. One of those projects was to be the creation of the Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park.
By 1939, the final section was completed, going from Swift Run Gap to Rockfish Gap. The Civilian Conservation Corps also worked on this project, grading slopes, building guardrails and constructing the 70 overlooks the line the roadway. They also planted thousands of trees and shrubs.
Whether planning a vacation, spending a weekend, seeing animals and birds of prey in their natural habitat, or just taking a drive to see the fall colors, there are plenty of good reasons for visiting one of the nation;s premier National Parks.
One family visiting from Virginia Beach, Virginia commented on a visit September 23, 2013, saying:
"The drive through the mountains is absolutely breathtaking. The sunrise and sunset's here are amazing. I wish we had gotten here a little later to see the leaves change...they make for an incredible vista. During this trip we took part in a ranger guided tour talking about the volcanic history of the area. It was very informative."
Mabry's Mill, located at milepost 176.2, is a working watermill. There is, or was, a restaurant close-by that serves the best pancakes this examiner has ever eaten, made from flour ground at the mill. The mill itself, was built by Edwin Boston Mabry (E.B. Mabry).
E.B. built the structure in 1903, first using it as a blacksmith and wheelwright shop. After a short while, it became a sawmill. It finally found its niche in the order of things in 1905, when it settled down to being a gristmill.