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What Is Shenandoah National Park?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Cartwright
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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Shenandoah National Park is a US national park of almost 200,000 acres (about 309 square km) in the northwestern corner of the state of Virginia. First authorized in 1926, the park was dedicated in 1936. It is the only US national park containing large amounts of previously occupied land which has been allowed to return to natural conditions. Skyline Drive, winding through 105 miles (169 km) along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains within the park is the best known of the park's features.

Prior to the founding of the park, the area it now covers had been home to small farms and towns. The area was in an economic decline and many residents had already left when the state of Virginia bought 180,000 acres (728 sq km) of land and contributed it to the federal government as the major portion of the new Shenandoah National Park. Remaining residents were paid for their land and relocated with government help. By the late 20th century almost 80,000 acres (about 324 square km) of the park were suitable for designation as wilderness.

The park lies along the Blue Ridge Mountains, a major range within the Appalachian Mountains, and elevations within the park range up to 4,000 feet (1,219 m.) Within the park boundaries are the headwaters of the Shenandoah River, which runs west out of the park. Streams, pools and waterfalls of various sizes are found throughout the park.

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Shenandoah National Park has a mixture of habitats varying with the elevation, moisture level and soil types of each area. These variations allow the park to support a wide range of both plant and animal life. The forests in the park consist principally of oak, hickory and chestnut trees, all deciduous trees, meaning they drop their leaves in the fall. Some evergreens, such as fir and spruce, are also found in the park.

Common wildflowers include bloodroot, trillium, ladyslippers and columbine along with hundreds of other flower species. White-tailed deer, opossums, cottontail rabbits and raccoons are among the more frequently seen animals in the park. Many species of birds, reptiles and amphibians are also common.

Shenandoah National Park offers opportunities for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. The Appalachian Trail runs through the park for 101 miles (about 162.50 km) and there are at least 400 miles (about 604 km) of other hiking trails. Dedicated horse trails, camping areas and over 200 miles (about 322 km)of roads for automobiles and biking are also found in the park,

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