Shenandoah National Park lies along the Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia. These mountains form a distinct highland rising to elevations above 4,000 feet (1,200 m). Local topographic relief between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley exceeds 3,000 feet (910 m) at some locations. The crest of the range divides the Shenandoah River drainage basin, part of the Potomac River drainage, on the west side, from the James and Rappahannock River drainage basins on the east side.
Some of the rocks exposed in the park date to over one billion years in age, making them among the oldest in Virginia. Bedrock in the park includes Grenville-age granitic basement rocks (1.2–1.0 billion years old) and a cover sequence of metamorphosed Neoproterozoic (570–550 million years old) sedimentary and volcanic rocks of the Swift Run and Catoctin formations. Columns of Catoctin Formation metamorphosed basalt can be seen at Compton Peak. Clastic rocks of the Chilhowee Group are of early Cambrian age (542–520 million years old). Quaternary surficial deposits are common and cover much of the bedrock throughout the park.
The park is located along the western part of the Blue Ridge anticlinorium, a regional-scale Paleozoic structure at the eastern margin of the Appalachian fold and thrust belt. Rocks within the park were folded, faulted, distorted, and metamorphosed during the late Paleozoic Alleghanian orogeny (325 to 260 million years ago). The rugged topography of Blue Ridge Mountains is a result of differential erosion during the Cenozoic, although some post-Paleozoic tectonic activity occurred in the region.
Creation of the Park:
Shenandoah was authorized in 1926 and fully established on December 26, 1935. Prior to being a park, much of the area was farmland and there are still remnants of old farms in several places. The Commonwealth of Virginia slowly acquired the land through eminent domain and then gave it to the U.S. federal government provided it would be designated a national park.
In the creation of the park [the Skyline Drive right-of-way was purchased from owners without condemnation, a number of families and entire communities had to vacate portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains. At least 500 homes in eight Virginia counties were affected. Most of the families came from Madison County, Page County, and Rappahannock County. Nearly 90% of the inhabitants worked the land for a living. Although a terrible drought in 1930 affected many nearby apple orchards (where many of the area's residents worked), some people vehemently opposed leaving.
Eventually, a compromise was reached: some families were allowed to stay after their properties were acquired. They lived in the park until they died. The last one was Annie Lee Bradley Shenk; she died in 1979 at age 92. Most others left quietly. According to the Virginia Historical Society, 85-year-old Hezekiah Lam explained, "I ain't so crazy about leavin' these hills but I never believed in bein' ag'in (against) the Government. I signed everythin' they asked me."
(Info Credit: www.wikipedia.org)