Rockfish Gap


Rockfish Gap

Infobox Mountain Pass
Name = Rockfish Gap
Photo = Rockfish Gap.jpg|thumb|300px|right
Caption = A cluster of mostly-defunct restaurant and lodging businesses reside at Rockfish Gap, at the junction of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Elevation = 1900 ft./579 m.
Location = Virginia USA
Range = Blue Ridge Mountains
Coordinates =
Topographic

Transversed by =

Rockfish Gap is a wind gap located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Afton Mountain in the American state of Virginia.

Separating the Shenandoah Valley from the Piedmont region of the state, it is the site of the mountain crossing of Interstate 64, U.S. Highway 250, and the former Blue Ridge Railroad which later became part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. With an elevation of about 1,900 feet, it is one of the lowest gaps between the Manassas Gap and the James River.

The bucolic Skyline Drive, which runs north to Front Royal, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs south to a point near Cherokee, North Carolina, each generally following the mountain ridgetops, meet at Rockfish Gap. The Appalachian Trail also passes through the gap.

History

In the 18th century, early trails used by Native Americans were gradually expanded to accommodate the westward expansion of Virginia colonists. The Three Chopt or Three Notch'd Road had been established in the Colony of Virginia between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley by the 1740s. [ http://www.historicwoolenmills.org/chronology.html ] Most likely, the road followed an ancient "Monacan" trail from Orapax (east of Richmond) to the western Shenandoah Valley. [ http://www.virginiadot.org/VTRC/main/online_reports/pdf/76-r32.pdf ] This well-planned route required only one major river crossing, the Rivanna at Charlottesville, with inns or taverns spaced about 10 miles apart. By 1782, carriages could cross the Blue Ridge at Rockfish Gap.

In 1818, Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Chief Justice John Marshall and 24 other dignitaries met in the Mountain Top Tavern at Rockfish Gap to select Charlottesville as the site of the University of Virginia. [ http://www.ajheatwole.com/guide/log3/log36.htm ]

Railroad, highway crossings

State Chief Engineer Claudius Crozet of the Virginia Board of Public Works oversaw construction of the railroad tunnel under Rockfish Gap in the 1850s as part of the state-owned Blue Ridge Railroad. This tunnel was later used by Confederate General Stonewall Jackson to move his foot cavalry during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War. The original tunnel was replaced by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway with a new one on a slightly different alignment in the mid 20th century. The old tunnel is still intact, and has been considered for possible re-use as a trail or bikeway.

In the early 20th century, a road which was designated U.S. Highway 250 in 1935 was built across the gap. In 1972 and 1973, sections of the new Interstate 64 were completed across Afton Mountain at Rockfish Gap. [ http://www.vahighways.com/route-log/i64.htm ]

Fog, hazardous driving conditions

Rockfish Gap has been the site of several large multiple vehicle collisions on Interstate 64 during fog conditions on Afton Mountain, which peaks at about 1,915 feet above sea level. In April 1992, there were 2 fatalities in a 60-car pileup. In late April 1998, another wreck involving 65 cars sent 40 people to area hospitals. Less than three weeks later, there was another 18-car crash. Fog was a factor in all three incidents. [ http://www.rescue5.com/news/n121402.htm ]

Motorists approaching from lower elevations sometimes suddenly encounter a dense fog as they approach the summit of the gap. A lighting system within the pavement to help designate lanes automatically activated by fog sensors was installed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to improve safety during such weather conditions. They also urge motorists to check ahead at a website [http://www.travelshenandoah.com TravelShenandoah.com] which allows access to a camera that displays real-time fog conditions on top of the mountain. During foggy conditions, motorists should follow appropriate driving procedures (i.e. use low beam headlights, increase following distances, etc.).

Arson incidents

In the early 2000s, some of the abandoned buildings at Rockfish Gap were the victims of arson attacks. A portion of the Skyline Parkway Motor Court was burned in 2002. [ http://www.schuminweb.com/schumin-web/photography/2003/afton-mountain-2.php ] On July 9, 2004, the main building of the Skyline Parkway Motel was damaged beyond repair in an arson attack. [ http://www.schuminweb.com/schumin-web/journal/permalink.php?id=243 ] [ http://www.schuminweb.com/schumin-web/journal/permalink.php?id=245 ]

ee also

* National Landmark of Soaring

References

External links


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