Shenandoah National Park is 105 miles long stretching from Front Royal, Virginia to the Waynesboro-Charolottesville area. It includes 300 square miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southern Appalachians. The park rises above the Virginia Piedmont to its east and the Shenandoah Valley to its west. Two peaks, Stony Man and Hawksbill, exceed 4,000 feet. The range of elevation, slopes and aspects, rocks and soils, precipitation, and latitude create a mix of habitats.
Tens of thousands of living creatures make their homes in the park, from black bear resting beneath rock overhangs, to tiny aquatic insects darting through cool mountain streams. The park’s many worlds are fascinating to explore.
Most of Shenandoah’s landscape is forested. In the process of photosynthesis, converting light, water, and minerals into foods, green plants give off water. From a distance this air-born water creates a faint haze giving the Blue Ridge its name. In recent years, the haze has taken on other ingredients, introduced by humans. Air is among the resources the staff at Shenandoah National Park is duty bound to protect.
Shenandoah serves as a refuge for many species of animals otherwise pressured by human activities, development and other land uses. There are over 200 resident and transient bird species, over 50 species of mammals, 51 reptile and amphibian species, and 30 fish species found in the park. Only incomplete records of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates are available so the total number of different species of these groups is unknown. A handful of these species are large and conspicuous and therefore easily found by visitors. The park provides boundless opportunities for the public to search for and discover the thousands of other park residents.
Most of Shenandoah National Park is covered by forests.
They are generally classified as oak-hickory
, yet they contain far more than just oak and hickory trees to discover. The park’s 70 mile length and 3500 foot elevation range create numerous habitats able to support a variety of forest cover types. Some of the strongest influences determining what plants grow in certain areas of Shenandoah National Park are the available moisture, growing season length, temperature, and soil conditions. Chestnut and red oak forest are common in the park, but other forest types such tulip poplar, cove hardwood, and even small areas of spruce-fir forest, may also be found when exploring the park’s peaks, steep hillsides, and sheltered stream valleys.
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