The most northerly of the Southern states, Virginia is roughly triangular in shape. The small section of the state that, along with Maryland and Delaware, occupies the Delmarva peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean is separated from the main part of Virginia and is called the Eastern Shore. The coastal plain or tidewater region of E Virginia, generally flat and partly swampy, is cut by four great tidal rivers—the Potomac (forming most of the border with Maryland and beyond which also lies Washington, D.C.), the Rappahannock, the York, and the James—all of which empty into Chesapeake Bay. In the tidewater region stretch vast forests of pine and hardwood, highlighted in early spring by flowering redbud and dogwood.
In the west the tidewater region rises to c.300 ft. (90 m) at the fall line (passing through Richmond) and gives way to the Piedmont—rolling, generally fertile country that broadens gradually as it extends south to the North Carolina line. Rising abruptly in the western Piedmont is the Blue Ridge range, carpeted with bluegrass and ablaze in spring with rhododendron and mountain laurel; the Blue Ridge rises to the state's highest peak, Mt. Rogers (5,720 ft/1,743 m). Between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Plateau, both part of the Appalachian range, lies the valley and ridge province. One of the most prominent of these valleys is the Valley of Virginia; another is the rich and historic Shenandoah Valley.
Virginia's shores, mountains, mineral springs, natural wonders, and numerous historic sites draw millions of visitors annually. Crowning the hilltops and river bluffs from the Chesapeake region west to the Blue Ridge and adding to the grace and elegance of the Virginia landscape are the classic Greek revival homes and public buildings with their stately porticoes. Major tourist attractions include Shenandoah National Park; Colonial Williamsburg; and Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial. Other historic points of interest include Appomattox Court House National Historical Park; Manassas and Richmond national battlefield parks; Booker T. Washington and George Washington Birthplace national monuments; Colonial National Historical Park and Jamestown National Historic Site, both on Jamestown Island; and several national cemeteries and battlefields (see National Parks and Monuments, table).
Richmond is the capital, and Virginia Beach the largest city; other large cities are Norfolk; Newport News; Chesapeake; Hampton; Portsmouth; and Alexandria and Arlington (officially a county), both suburbs of Washington, D.C.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.