Shenandoah River

Paddlers on the Shenandoah River, Eastern Panhandle Region
Paddlers on the Shenandoah

The 55-mile Shenandoah River is a tributary of the Potomac River that flows northward through the Valley of Virginia, also known as the Great Appalachian Valley, in Virginia and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia (WV). The river is formed near Front Royal, Virginia, by the confluence of its south and north forks. From Front Royal, it flows northeastward 55 more miles to join the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, WV. The river in West Virginia is entirely contained within Jefferson County.

Shenandoah History

Archaeological evidence unearthed at the forks of the Shenandoah indicates that inhabited structures had been established there as early as 9300 B.C. Inhabitants began permanently farming along the river around A.D. 900.

John Lederer who explored the Shenandoah Valley as early as 1669, wrote extensive notes about the valley, describing its wildlife, terrain, and inhabitants. Lord Fairfax inherited a large portion of the northern valley from the British Crown in the late 1700s.

The American folk song “Oh Shenandoe” was set in the valley, and the river figures prominently in the first stanza of the John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, born in Clarksburg, WV, developed his reputation defending the valley of the Shenandoah River against Union troops early in the Civil War.

Shenandoah Communities

From source to mouth, the following select towns and villages in West Virginia are located on or near the Shenandoah River.

Shannondale, WV
Bloomery, WV
Millville, WV
Bolivar, WV
Harpers Ferry, WV

Parks & Recreation

The Shenandoah in West Virginia is a popular destination for whitewater rafting and kayaking in spring and early summer. The river courses through the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park during its brief journey through the West Virginia and alongside the Shannondale Springs Wildlife Management Area. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail crosses the Shenandoah near its mouth at Harpers Ferry.

Name Origin

The name “Shenandoah” may be descended from native origin and is most often interpreted to mean “Daughter of the Stars.”

Variant Names

Chanador River, Chenandoah River, Gerando, Shanandore River, Shanedore River, Shanidore Creek, Shannondoah River, Sharantow River, Shawan River, Shenando River, Shenandoa, Shennando River, Sherandoch River, South River, Tschanator River

Regional Information

Information on lodging, dining, and recreation on and near the Shenandoah River in West Virginia may be found in our guide to travel in the Eastern Panhandle Region.

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