USA SOUTHEAST: Appalachians: Virginia, WV, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky

Favorite photos from Southeast USA

Our trips to Southeast USA (Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky) captured fascinating national and natural history plus colorful autumn leaves in the following favorite images:

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All photographs in this article are taken from four trips:

  • October 20 to November 10, 2008 to Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • October 25, 2010 to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.
  • June 20 to July 1, 2012 to Virginia: Mount Vernon, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore, and Gloucester Courthouse.
  • October 7-23, 2015 trip from Indianapolis to Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Virginia: Monticello (Thomas Jefferson estate) and Shirley Plantation

  • Monticello (the estate of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States) reflects in a pond on a hill near Charlottesville, Virginia. The fascinating tour inside includes underground buildings with old wood fired kitchen and copper pots.
  • The Rotunda building (built 1822-26) graces the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
  • Shirley Plantation, settled in 1613, is the oldest active plantation in Virginia and said to be the oldest family-owned business in North America, dating back to 1638.

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Virginia: Mount Vernon, estate of George and Martha Washington

View Tom Dempsey’s photos of Mount Vernon, Virginia, which was the plantation home of George Washington, the first President of the United States (1789–1797). The mansion is built of wood in neoclassical Georgian architectural style on the banks of the Potomac River. The estate served as neutral ground for both sides during the American Civil War, although fighting raged across the nearby countryside. George Washington (1732-1799) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America (USA), serving as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and presiding over the convention that drafted the Constitution in 1787. Named in his honor are Washington, D.C. (the District of Columbia, capital of the United States) and the State of Washington on the Pacific Coast. Mount Vernon estate was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is owned and maintained in trust by The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

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Virginia: Historic Jamestowne, Jamestown Settlement, and Williamsburg

Historic Jamestowne, run by the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia, is the actual historic and archaeological site on Jamestown Island where in 1607, settlers established the first successful English colony (Virginia) in the Americas. Historic Jamestowne photos below include: palisade of the James Fort, Captain John Smith and Pocahontas bronze statues, Memorial Church, 1907 Tercentennial Monument obelisk, well excavation, cannon, Jamestown-Scotland Ferry, Chesapeake Bay map; Coat of Arms of United Kingdom & Ireland, used 1603-1649 by James VI (King of Scots), 1660-1689 by Charles II, and 1702-1707 by Queen Anne.

Adjacent to Historic Jamestowne is Jamestown Settlement, which was created in 1957 as “Jamestown Festival Park,” part of Virginia Colony’s 350th anniversary celebration. Jamestown Settlement, operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, chronicles 1600s Virginia and the convergence of three cultures: Powhatan Indians (with recreated Village), west central African tribes (described in museum), and Europeans (with recreated English Fort and ship replicas Godspeed, Discovery, and flagship Susan Constant).

Photos of nearby Colonial Williamsburg include: Capitol building, Chowning Tavern, Governor’s Palace foyer, wood-fired stove, dining table with 1700s style place settings, pipe organ, guns, swords, 1715 Bruton Parish Church, Courthouse with actors, straw hats, two-horse carriage, alphabet drawn with contorted human bodies, silversmith tools, and map of the British colonies in North America from the mid 1700s.

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Virginia: Luray Caverns, Shenandoah National Park, and Humpback Covered Bridge

My photos of Shenandoah National Park include tree silhouettes during an orange sunset. Humpback Covered Bridge, built in 1857 near Covington (Interstate 64, Exit 10), is the oldest remaining covered bridge in the state of Virginia, and its unusual humpback design raises the bridge deck 4 feet higher in the middle than on the ends. Luray Caverns photos include: Great Stalacpipe Organ (a unique musical instrument that taps bell-like stalactites), blue-green Wishing Well pool, cave speleothems, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, columns, mud flows, patterns.

 

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Virginia: Appalachia: Blue Ridge Parkway

This gallery illustrates Virginia’s section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. (See separate gallery for North Carolina’s section.) Photos by Tom Dempsey include: vibrant fall foliage colors on October 18-19, 2015; a lovely sunset view at Chimney Rock Mountain Overlook (Milepost 44.9); and beautiful Indian Rocks. The scenic 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was built 1935-1987 to aesthetically connect Shenandoah National Park (in Virginia) with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, following crest-lines and the Appalachian Trail.

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Virginia: Appalachia: Natural Tunnel State Park

 At the unique Natural Tunnel State Park, near Duffield, Virginia, both a train and a river share the same natural limestone cave, measuring 850 feet (255 meters) long, since 1890. Natural Tunnel began forming during the early Pleistocene Epoch and was fully formed by about one million years ago. Daniel Boone is believed to have been the first white man to see it. William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) dubbed this tourist attraction as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Natural Tunnel State Park was created in 1967 and opened to the public in 1971. A passenger train line ran through Natural Tunnel for a time and today, coal is still carried through by rail to the southeast USA.

 

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Virginia: Chincoteague and Gloucester Courthouse

Assateague Island is within Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Virginia Eastern Shore, and can be reached by road bridge from Chincoteague Island. Below, see my photos of Chincoteague Ponies, Assateague Light House (built 1867), water birds (Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, Glossy Ibis, Black Skimmer).

  • The Chincoteague Pony (or Assateague horse) is a breed of small horse (Equus ferus caballus) which lives wild on Assateague Island in Virginia and Maryland, USA. The breed was made famous by the “Misty of Chincoteague” series written by Marguerite Henry starting in 1947. Legend claims that Chincoteague ponies descend from wrecked Spanish galleons. But they more likely descend from stock released by 1600s colonists escaping laws and taxes levied on mainland livestock. In 1835, settlers began pony penning to remove some horses. In 1924 the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company held the first official “Pony Penning Day,” where ponies were swum across Assateague Channel and auctioned to raise money, a tradition thriving ever since as a public spectacle. The federal government owns Assateague Island, which is split by a fence at the Maryland/Virginia state line, with a herd of around 150 ponies living on each side of the fence managed separately. The Maryland herd of “Assateague horses” lives within Assateague Island National Seashore and is treated as wild, except for contraceptives given to prevent overpopulation. The Virginia herd of “Chincoteague ponies” lives within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge but is owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. The Virginia ponies get twice yearly veterinary inspections to cover possible auction sale into the outside world. Only about 300 ponies live on Assateague Island, but 1000 more live off-island, having been privately purchased or bred.

Photos below also include historic Gloucester Courthouse and pretty garden lilies. Gloucester County was the site of Werowocomoco, a capital of the large and powerful Native American Powhatan Confederacy, which affiliated 30 tribes under a paramount chief. It was home to members of early colonial First Families of Virginia and important leaders in the period up to the American Revolutionary War.

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Virginia/Tennessee/Kentucky: Cumberland Gap National Historic Park

In Virginia, visit Pinnacle Overlook (2440 feet elevation) in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, above Middlesboro, Kentucky and Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. From Pinnacle Overlook, see Tristate Peak where the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia meet, as resolved in 1803. The pass of Cumberland Gap (elevation 1600 feet / 488 meters) is famous in American history as the chief passageway through the central Appalachian Mountains and as an important part of the Wilderness Road. Long used by Native Americans, the path was widened by a team of loggers led by Daniel Boone, making it accessible to pioneers, who used it to journey into the western frontiers of Kentucky and Tennessee. The gap was formed by a southward flowing ancient creek which cut through tectonically uplifted mountains. As the land lifted, the creek reversed direction, flowing into the Cumberland River to the north. Nearby, stop at Clinch Mountain Lookout, near Bean Station, Tennessee, to ogle Cherokee Lake, dammed by the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) on the Holston River in 1941.

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Tennessee: Appalachia: Bays Mountain Park

In Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium in Kingsport, Tennessee, enjoy walking a 2.3-mile loop (and other trails) on boardwalks and easy paths around the old Kingsport city reservoir which provided water 1917-1944 and now serves as lake habitat. This attractive nature preserve is the largest city-owned park in Tennessee and was declared a State Natural Area in 1973. As part of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, the ridge of Bays Mountain runs southwest to northeast, from just south of Knoxville to Kingsport, in eastern Tennessee.

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Tennessee/North Carolina: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles Tennessee and North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are part of the larger Appalachian chain. In 1983, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was honored as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Photos include: panoramas seen from Webb Overlook and Clingman’s Dome, Cades Cove churches, Cable Mill Historic Area, Mingus Mill, historic settler cabins, cantilever and drive-through barns, old wood fired stove, wooden buggy & wagon, yokes, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, fall foliage colors, Little River Road, walking behind Grotto Falls, deer.

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Tennessee/North Carolina: Cherohala Skyway

Atop the Unicoi Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, the Cherohala Skyway reveals far-reaching views in the Blue Ridge Mountains (a subset of the Southern Appalachian Mountains). Cherohala combines the names of the two National Forests traversed: “Chero” from Cherokee and “hala” from Nantahala NF. Vibrant fall foliage colors begin in mid October at highest elevations then work their way down the Cherohala Skyway. Long in planning since 1958, the Cherohala Skyway opened to automobile traffic in 1996 – a new National Scenic Byway. The Skyway climbs over 4000 feet, starting at elevation 900 feet along Tellico River and reaching 5400 feet on the slopes of Haw Knob in North Carolina. The 43-mile paved Cherohala Skyway follows Tennessee State Route 165 (SR-165 or TN 165) for 25 miles from Tellico Plains to the state line at Stratton Gap, then continues on North Carolina Highway 143 (NC 143) for 18 miles to Robbinsville. The Skyway accesses various protected and recreational areas including Citico Creek Wilderness, Bald River Gorge Wilderness, and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.

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North Carolina: Appalachia: Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile (755 km) long highway that connects Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, following the ridge crestlines near the Appalachian Trail. It is both a National Parkway and an “All-American Road” (one of the best of the National Scenic Byways).

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North Carolina: Appalachia: Hanging Rock State Park

Look across miles of autumn orange and red foliage at Hanging Rock State Park, Stokes County, North Carolina. The eroded quartzite knob called Hanging Rock rises to 2150 feet elevation. The park is 30 miles (48 km) north of Winston-Salem, 2 miles from Danbury. The Sauratown Mountain Range is made of monadnocks (or inselbergs, isolated hills) from erosion-resistant quartzite remnants of mountains pushed up between 250 and 500 million years ago, that are separated from the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains.

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North Carolina: Durham, Duke & Eno River State Park

Photos around Durham, North Carolina, include: gothic spires of Duke University Chapel, Duke Gardens (Muscovy Duck, Great Blue Heron eating fish, lily pond reflections, orange mushroom, Sugar Maple vibrant autumn colors), and fall foliage colors reflected in Eno River State Park.

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North Carolina: Outer Banks

The Outer Banks are a 200-mile (320-km) long string of narrow barrier islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina. Photos include: Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, sea shells, skate egg case, and bird tracks in sand dune patterns.

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Kentucky

The following photos from Mammoth Cave, Kentucky on October 25, 2010 include: fall foliage color, Historic Entrance panoramas, stairways, formations, cave cricket, wild turkey, green algae on white fungus covering a tree trunk, and scenic drive. In 1981, UNESCO honored Mammoth Cave National Park as a World Heritage Site.

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West Virginia

The following photos of West Virginia include: New River Gorge Bridge and boardwalk, Hawks Nest State Park views of New River, Babcock State Park, Glade Creek Grist Mill, barn with silo and farm amidst fall leaf colors, Green Bank Radio Telescope, map of the National Radio Quiet Zone, Harpers Ferry Armory, John Brown’s Fort, 1833 St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Jefferson Rock, Hilltop House, Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Crossings bridges on the Potomac River, funny dogs looking through window cut in fence.

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Recommended Southeast USA guidebooks from Amazon.com:

2010: 2005: 2008: 2011: 2006: 2007: 2010: 2010: 2011: 2005: 2010: 2009: 2011: History: Fiction: DVD: