Overview: Dark Hollow Falls is one of the closest scenic falls to the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. Naturalists and photographers ... more »
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Dark Hollow Falls is one of the closest scenic falls to the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. Naturalists and photographers ... more »Ann and Rob Simpson join NaturePods and EveryTrail to share their love of the natural and cultural history of this very special area.
Learn about the CCC, black bears, wildflowers, and enjoy the falls as President Thomas Jefferson did back in the day. less «
Tips: The trail starts at mile 50.7 on Skyline Drive, just north of Big Meadows. The route is 1.4 miles round-trip and like all falls along... more » Skyline Drive, you must climb back up to your car at the end. This can be challenging for some, so come prepared. Wear sturdy shoes, carry plenty of water and perhaps a snack, and dress for the weather. Summertime storms can cause dramatic temperature changes. less «
A very popular hike to the closest falls along Skyline Drive is the trail to Dark Hollow Falls at mile 50.7. It is a fairly easy 1.4 mile round trip hike to a beautiful waterfall. Like most of our waterfalls in the park the hikes are downhill which means you have to walk up hill on the way back. Make sure you know your limitations and plan to... More take your time. There are some sitting rocks along the trail if you need to rest especially on your way back up.
In the spring the blossoms of Mountain Laurel adorn the path with bright pink blossoms. The trail follows the Hogcamp Branch stream as it leaves the Big Meadows spring and eventually drops over the falls. The trail is cool and shaded by a canopy of trees that offers welcome relief in the summer. As you are hiking down listen to the sounds of the water and also to the sounds of nature. One of the birds that may serenade your hike is the Blue Headed Vireo. This neotropical migrant that breeds at high elevations in the park has a very sweet melodious voice that seems to say “Look-Up, In-the-Trees”.
If you happen to see a dragonfly it may be one of the uncommon species that requires pristine, shaded mountain streams. When you spot one of these you know you are in a special place.
Near the bottom of the trail you will come to a viewing platform where you can see the top of the falls. If you continue another tenth of a mile down the trail you will reach the base of the falls for a much more impressive view. Legend says that Thomas Jefferson was quite fond of these falls and spent time quietly contemplating the wonders of nature at the foot of Dark Hollow falls.
The Great Depression that began in 1929 and lasted more than a decade brought with it some of the greatest challenges not only to the National park system but to the entire country. Like a fast moving avalanche the great depression blanketed the country with devastation and ruin. Dreams were shattered and lives were torn away from the comfort and ... Moresecurity that they had enjoyed for years. As the years wore on many people found that they were penniless and destitute. The effects of their hardships were far reaching. At the height of the crisis in 1933, over 15 million Americans were unemployed. Many people lost everything and had to depend on charity to survive. The presidential election of 1933 was one of the most significant elections in the history of the United States. People were looking for someone to bring them out of the depression and back into stability and financial security. Franklin Delano Roosevelt heard the voice of the people and as soon as he was elected took emergency measures to pull the country out of trouble. As part of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” program Congress enacted the Emergency Conservation Work Act which soon became known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The mission of the agency was to combine jobs for unemployed people and to preserve the exhausted natural resources of the country.
In the decade that the CCC was in operation, about 3 million unemployed, single young men between the ages of 17 and 23 were given jobs across the country. Under the direction of the US military, CCC camps were established in areas where conservation projects were being planned. Roosevelt established eleven CCC camps supervised by NPS employees to complete the work on Shenandoah and the Skyline Drive. Drive 100’ firth of way 1933-1935. then park 1936-1942. Numbering about 200 – 250 per camp, these CCC men would build roads, trails, comfort stations, picnic grounds, and other facilities that provide the infrastructure of the park today.
The CCC was also responsible for planting tens of thousands of trees including Fraser fir, red spruce, Canadian yews, table mountain pine and fragrant sumac. These seedlings were started from local park seeds or seeds imported from nurseries or other parks. The CCC also was commissioned to beautify and reestablish the area. Fondly christened “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” the CCC was responsible for planting over 3 billion trees across the nation.
You can explore one of the CCC camps by taking a short hike, not far, less than 5 minutes, into Big Meadows. Walking a short distance due Northeast you will soon find yourself atop a rise near the edge of the forest. Stop here and look around you. It was in this area, marked by stakes, where the CCC Camp NP-2 (Big Meadows) was located. You can imagine the barracks and mess hall were a lively place in the evenings with hundreds of young men from across the country laughing, telling stories and sharing tales from back home. If you allow yourself to become aware of the slight blowing breeze you may be able to pick up the sounds of men laughing, dishes clanging and you may even be able to smell the biscuits, beans and bacon cooking in the mess tent. After a hard time enduring the Great Depression the men finally had enough food to eat and were making enough money to be able to send some home to their loved ones. Of their $30 monthly salary $25 was sent directly home to their families
Mountain laurel puts on a spectacular show in the early summer usually beginning the first week in June. This woody evergreen shrub likes to grow in somewhat open areas like along the Limberlost trail, Dundo Overlook and Jenkins Gap in the park. It likes to grow in acid soils and is an indicator plant showing that you are in the oak chestnut... More forest association. The blossoms are saucer shaped and cover the shrub with striking clusters of pastel rose, pink or white flowers. Although this plant does grow wild in the park many of the shrubs along the drive were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps when the Skyline Drive was being built.
Many plants have devised unique methods to ensure pollination. The resourceful mountain laurel is one of the best at pollination engineering. The stamens are designed to spring like a taut bow when an insect trips the lever. The unwary insect is plunked on its back with a plop of sticky pollen and flies off to another plant to deliver the pollen to the stigma thus ensuring pollination.
Mountain Laurel has several local names including Calico-Bush which comes from the white blossoms that are trimmed with pink. In the past it was also called Spoonwood because the Native Americans used to make their spoons out of the wood. Knots or Burls from the wood were used to make tobacco pipes.
Slopes facing a northerly direction get very little direct sunlight during the day. This makes the slope cool and moist with many plants that might be typical of a more northern climate. Maidenhair spleenwort is a typical fern that can be found on these cool moist slopes. Catawba Rhododendron also likes north facing slopes and can be seen in a few... More spots in the southern section of the park. These slopes are often covered in stands of eastern hemlock which are now heavily under attack by a tiny insect called the hemlock wooly adelgid.
First seen in Shenandoah in 1989, this devastating pest has rapidly spread to 100% infection in the park. Today almost all the hemlocks in the park are dead or dying. The habitats that the hemlocks once dominated such as Limberlost or Hemlock Springs Overlook are now being taken over by successional species such as Mountain Laurel. Many of these north facing slopes are characterized by other northerly tree species including Sugar maple, yellow birch, and red maple. On these moist slopes, dense populations of salamanders thrive. Look for red backed, northern red, seal, northern two lined, and at high elevations the rare and endangered Shenandoah salamander.
In the early 1900’s black bears had lost so much of their natural habitat that few were to be found in the Eastern and Central Virginia area. After the establishment of Shenandoah National Park, two bears were reported within park boundaries and by 1944 ten individual bears had been seen. By the early 1950’s a total of 75 bears had been reported ... Morefrom all three districts of the park. Today approximately 300 –600 black bears live in Shenandoah National Park. Poachers have been caught illegally shooting bears in the park for their gallbladders and paws which absurdly are thought to have medicinal properties. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is a treaty among more than 120 nations that provides measures to curb illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products across international boundaries. The CITES treaty helps to protect the black bear and other wild fauna and flora from the damaging effects of poaching.Less