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By the Numbers: Shenandoah National Park


View from Little Stony Man Cliffs in Shenandoah National Park. NPS photo by John F. Mitchell.


Recreational visits to Shenandoah National Park in 2009. That’s an increase of 4.2% over last year, but still far below the peak attendance of 2.8 million (in 1977).


Acreage (equal to 311 square miles). Shenandoah is long and narrow, being 105 miles long and nowhere more than about 15 miles wide.


Federally designated wilderness acreage. Many visitors conditioned to think of Shenandoah in frontcountry terms are surprised to learn that 40% of the park consists of wilderness tracts.


Approximate number of Civilian Conservation Corps workers who helped plant hundreds of thousands of trees, shrubs, and native plants in the park during 1933-1942. The fine CCC-built structures in this park deserve the praise they get, but it was the revegetation projects that greened up thousands of acres of mountainsides deforested by 200 years of farming, grazing, and timbering.


Height (feet) of Hawksbill Mountain, the park’s highest peak. Though visitors from western states are not likely to be impressed, mountains like Hawksbill and Stony Man (the park’s only other 4,000-fotter) add scenic diversity and are tall enough to provide 360-degree views.


Species of wildflowers found in the park. Wildflowers account for nearly two-thirds of the park’s 1,376 species of vascular plants (including 66 rare species). The first wildflowers you’re likely to see this spring (late March) are hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).


Clearance (inches) of 600 foot-long Mary’s Rock Tunnel, which is located on Skyline Drive just south of the park’s Thornton Gap entrance (Route 211 junction). If your RV or horse trailer is this high, you’ll need to avoid this section of the parkway.


Length (miles) of Skyline Drive, which winds along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Front Royal in the north and Rockfish Gap in the south. Weather and traffic permitting, it’s about a three-hour drive, end to end. Directions to Shenandoah’s most important sites or attractions include Skyline Drive milepost information. For example, Mary’s Rock Tunnel is at mile 31 and historic Big Meadows Lodge resort is at mile 51.


Length (miles) of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail within the park’s borders. That’s 4.65% of the AT’s total length.


Height (feet) of Overall Run Falls, the park’s tallest waterfall. Shenandoah has many waterfalls. Most are small, but nine are 28 feet tall or higher.


Fish species living in the park’s streams, including popular game fish like the eastern brook trout. Fishing is allowed in some park waters.


Amount of federally-owned land and public facilities in Green Springs National Historic Landmark District, which is administered by Shenandoah National Park. Green Springs, a 14,004-acre area of Louisa County with numerous historic structures (including fine rural manor houses) was designated a national historic landmark in 1977. There are preservation easements for nearly half of the land (5,766 acres).


The complex topography of side ridges gives Shenandoah many sheltered hollows where wildness and the sounds of nature prevail. An excellent trail guide to the hollows and ridges is "Circuit Hikes in Shenandoah National Park," published by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. It describes 29 day hikes, plus variants. I've been using one edition or another for 45 years. It's available at park visitor centers and from the PATC web site at

If you'd like to see a good variety of those 800+ plant species, hit Big Meadows. The Big Meadows Swamp contains the largest precentage of the rare plants in the park. Every year the park is desperate for volunteers to go out and help clear the swamp of invasives to protect those rare species. It's a great chance to enjoy a part of the park that not many people get to see and do something to help the park as well.

Thanks for the tip, RangerLady. We have a SHEN checklist in the queue, and we'll be sure to include this info when we post it within the next few months. As I'm sure you realize, our "By the Numbers" postings are only teasers. There's just not enough room in the BTN format to make them like our checklists, which are rich in details useful for visit planning. Here's hoping you get lots of volunteers to help you deal with those invasives.

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