Land Relief Western Virginia comprises three physiographically defined mountain provinces. From west to east, the first of these is the Appalachian Plateau , the smallest of the provinces, located in the southwestern tip of the state. The Valley and Ridge province consists of linear ridges in its western segment and the Great Appalachian Valley also known as the Great Valley in its eastern region.
The Blue Ridge province is mostly a region of rugged mountains, part of a range stretching southwestward from Pennsylvania to South Carolina. To the east the Coastal Plain province—or Tidewater region—lies low between the fall line and the Atlantic coast. The province is deeply interlaced by tidal rivers and is dominated by the Northern Neck Peninsula, the Middle Peninsula, and the Virginia Peninsula—all west of Chesapeake Bay.
The Tidewater also contains the area south of the James River , including the Norfolk region and the Great Dismal Swamp , which spans square miles 1, square km and extends south into North Carolina. Drainage and soils Virginia has eight major drainage systems that empty into the Atlantic Ocean. The Rappahannock , York, and James rivers indent the coast to form the main peninsulas. Two other systems pass into North Carolina, while in the extreme southwestern corner of the state two major systems flow eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.
The soils of Virginia are generally fertile. In the Tidewater, the tidal lowlands are usually covered with loam, a mixed soil rich in organic materials. To the west, sandy loams and clays predominate. In the Piedmont, clay and limestone soils dominate, and limestone soils are found in the valley areas west of the Blue Ridge. These temperatures allow growing seasons of up to eight months, three months longer than those in far western Virginia.
Elsewhere in the Tidewater and Piedmont regions, continental weather overcomes the eastern marine influence to produce colder winters. Throughout the state, precipitation averages from about 32 to 44 inches to 1, mm. Snowfall averages from a few inches in the southeast to about 30 inches mm in the mountains. Plant and animal life Forests of the Tidewater and Piedmont areas have mainly pine and some hardwood.
Cover other than trees includes marsh grass in the Tidewater and broom sedge, crabgrass, wire grass, and cultivated crops elsewhere. The mountainous areas contain tracts of various coniferous species and hardwoods such as hickory and oak. Bluegrass and field crops generally cover nearby valleys.
Wildflowers and berry bushes abound, depending on climate and soils. Common fauna are rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, opossums, muskrats, woodchucks, foxes, and deer. Less common are otters, beavers, mink, and wildcats. The main game birds are doves, quail, ducks, and geese; a few wild turkeys and woodcocks may be found.
Scavengers include coastal seagulls and the ubiquitous turkey vulture. Predatory birds include a number of hawks, owls, and the golden and bald eagles.
There are numerous songbirds, including the cardinal , the state bird. Poisonous reptiles include rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins. Although some yearly commercial and sport fishing catches have suggested generally plentiful stocks, concerns have been raised about overfishing and the diminishing populations of some species.
Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis , the state bird of Virginia. However, African Americans constitute a substantial minority—about one-fifth of the population—serving as a reminder of the important role that African slaves and their descendants played in the early development of the state.
The first Europeans to settle most of eastern Virginia were the English, coming from the central and southern counties of England, especially from London and the surrounding areas. During the s the Welsh and the French Huguenots were prominent among the immigrants, and a large number of people of Scotch-Irish and German descent moved from Pennsylvania into the Shenandoah Valley. People of Scotch-Irish and English ancestry still predominate, notably in western and southwestern counties.
Over the centuries, differences in speech developed as a result of both class structure and isolation. Rural speech was largely localized, the more mainstream patterns attaining a wider regional usage.
In the territory that now constitutes the state of Virginia, these peoples belonged primarily to three language families: Estimates of the Algonquian-speaking population at the time of European settlement range roughly from 14, to 22, in the Tidewater region alone. Today only two reservations remain in the state, one each for the Pamunkey and Mattaponi peoples, respectively situated along the Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers near West Point, where the two waterways join to form the York River at the western edge of the Middle Peninsula.
Although some Native Americans live throughout the state—especially in the urban environs of Washington, D. The Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Chickahominy all are Algonquian-speaking peoples.
Africans were first taken to Jamestown in as indentured servants; legalized slavery was not introduced for several decades. However, slaves of African descent ultimately became the foundation of the plantation agriculture that began in the Tidewater area and spread into the Piedmont. Although this proportion has decreased significantly since that time, the absolute number of African Americans has increased dramatically.
The Anglican branch of Christianity was the official religion in colonial Virginia. Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg , still active, was the main church in the early colonial capital; the church structure was completed in The Anglican church, which was disestablished in the colonies during the American Revolution , became the Episcopal Church, USA , but it retained only one-third of the Virginian population that claimed adherence to a specific denomination.
Dissenters, primarily Presbyterians , Quakers , Baptists , and Methodists , made up the Protestant balance. Virginia continues its Protestant tradition today, although there are many Roman Catholics. Settlement patterns For more than a century, the greatest growth has occurred in the urban corridor, an area that stretches south from Washington, D. This corridor is often classified as an extension of the great population mass, or megalopolis , arcing across the northeastern United States from Boston to Washington, D.
Other metropolitan areas include the urban environs of Roanoke and Lynchburg , as well as those around the smaller cities of Danville , Bristol , and Charlottesville. Historical homes dating to the turn of the 20th century, Richmond, Va. The population of Richmond is more than one-half African American; rural Charles City county, lying in the urban corridor, also is largely black. However, the counties to the west of the Blue Ridge have mainly small family-run farms, and the African American population is small in comparison with those of the Piedmont and Tidewater regions.
The high-technology sector has expanded considerably since the late 20th century, especially in the suburbs of Washington, D. The federal government has remained a dominant economic presence in Virginia. Virginia ranks among the top states in per capita distribution of federal funds and has one of the highest per capita incomes in the Southern region.
Although other products now predominate, tobacco is still featured in the southern Piedmont region. Truck farms devoted to market produce dot the Eastern Shore and Norfolk areas. Other sorts of farms are spread throughout the state. Pine is the principal pulpwood. Since the s the government has implemented reforestation programs to counter the risk of overharvesting—particularly of pine resources. Products from the bay include flounder, bass, and a number of other edible finfish, as well as oysters, hard and soft clams, and blue crabs.
Large amounts of schooling menhaden are caught in large nets and processed for their oil and for protein-rich fish meal. Aquaculture, focusing primarily on hard clams and oysters, has grown notably since the turn of the 21st century. Virginia and Maryland both have passed antipollution laws aimed to conserve Chesapeake Bay as a safe environment for fishing as well as general recreation.
Resources and power The main commercial minerals mined in Virginia include coal from the southwest and stone, clay, sand, and gravel from many areas. Other nondurable goods include food, textiles, and apparel. Transportation equipment is a leader among durable goods, but furniture, electrical equipment, and wood products also are important.
Of the various civilian service occupational sectors, wholesale and retail trade , health and social services, and the public sector federal, state, and local government account for a major portion of employment. Professional, scientific, and technical services are a significant source of employment in Virginia as well, with many jobs in the communications and business sectors.
Department of Defense not only is a major employer in Virginia but also conducts a significant amount of business through contracts with private firms within the state. The numerous military installations throughout the state offer training, engineering, supply, and transportation services, and all have had a considerable effect on local economic conditions and employment. Naval activities are concentrated around the Norfolk naval base, the largest U. Navy installation in the world.
Marine Corps facility at Quantico is a major development and education base. Coast Guard has a large facility near Yorktown , as do the U. Pentagon, theThe Pentagon, headquarters of the U. Department of Defense, Arlington county, Virginia.
Comprising a trestled roadway raised above the mouth of the bay and two tunnels under the main shipping channels , it is one of the largest structures of its kind. Aerial view of the two man-made islands that link the bridge and tunnel portions of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel; the underwater tunnel allows ships to pass through the Chesapeake Channel. A number of large railroad-based interstate transportation companies have their headquarters in the state. Several other companies operate shorter-line routes pitched primarily to commuters in the major metropolitan areas.
A network of commercial airports offers regional, national, and international flights. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: