13 May 2012

Virginia’s seven Shenandoahs

Posted by Callan Bentley

The word “Shenandoah” is thought to mean “daughter of the stars,” a lovely turn of phrase even if there’s no evidence for it. The name has been applied to a variety of features in the Commonwealth of Virginia. One is the Shenandoah River, and the valley in which it flows. Here’s a look at the North Fork of the Shenandoah, northwest of Massanutten Mountain:

Then there is the political entity of Shenandoah County, which runs from Massanutten’s southeastern ridge to the West Virginia border, including the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, but not the South Fork:

Shenandoah Mountain is a ridge in Rockingham County, the next county to the southwest of Shenandoah County:

There’s also a town called Shenandoah, and it’s located on the South Fork* of the Shenandoah River, in a third county, Page, which is one of the counties** that lies between Massanutten’s southeastern ridge and the Blue Ridge mountain front:

* Note that Google Maps has mislabeled the South Fork as the “North Fork” in this screenshot. Weird. I’m not used to them making errors like that.

** The other being Warren County, home of the unwieldily-named Raymond R. “Andy” Guest, Jr. Shenandoah River State Park. Here’s a look at it:

Far from all of this, up in the city of Winchester (surrounded by Frederick County), is Shenandoah University:

Finally, of course, is Shenandoah National Park, which unlike every other place discussed so far, lies in the Blue Ridge physiographic (and geologic) province, not the Valley & Ridge:

I would argue that Shenandoah National Park is poorly named, and would have been better dubbed “Blue Ridge National Park.” While parts of it are in the Shenandoah River watershed, the river itself is nowhere within the park’s boundaries.

My wife and I are planning to move to easternmost Shenandoah County next month, to the Fort Valley (inside Massanutten Mountain). Musing on that place name got me thinking about how many other places the name “Shenandoah” has been applied to. Did I miss any?