Smyth County: One Of Southwest Virginia's Best Kept Secrets
On February 23, 1832, the Virginia General Assembly created Smyth County from parts of Washington and Wythe Counties. It is comprised of the towns of Chilhowie, Saltville and Marion. It is also home to the communities of Adwolf, Atkins, Seven Mile Ford and Sugar Grove.
The county has many cultural and historical attractions to enjoy:
Museum of the Middle Appalachians
Travel through time at the MOMA! Learn about the unique geology of the region and how it has helped to shape American history. There you can view full-sized replicas of Ice Age mammals that roamed the area thousands of years ago. See the highlights of Saltville’s “company town” era and learn about salt production from the earliest times through the chemical production era. Other museum exhibits showcase fossil remains that were recovered in the Saltville Valley.
The town of Saltville was once the site of a large late Woodland village. At the MOMA Museum you can also view Native American artifacts from the earliest Paleo through the Woodland cultures.
The Museum of the Middle Appalachians is open to the public Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more details, visit the museum online at www.museum-mid-app.org.
The Lincoln Theatre
The beautifully restored Lincoln Theatre, Inc., is located in downtown Marion, Virginia, an official Virginia Main Street Community. The theatre is a major anchor in the community’s downtown revitalization and preservation efforts. The renovated theatre now hosts plays by community theatrical groups, local high school drama clubs, and traveling tour groups from around the globe as well as being the backdrop for the nationally syndicated and award-winning Song of the Mountains, which showcases the area’s Appalachian mountain musical heritage and talent.
Today, the Lincoln Theatre is one of the area’s finest examples of what teamwork, determination and community empowerment can do and is a gift that will enhance the lives of many who enter its doors for generations to come. It was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The theatre, located on Main Street, is part of the Town of Marion’s recognized historic district. Visitors to the downtown area will find historic buildings with varied architecture, including the elegantly restored General Francis Marion Hotel, originally built in 1927. Marion has been a Virginia Main Street Community since 1995 and is part of the National Main Street program. Visit www.marionva.org for more information.
Hungry Mother State Park
On June 15, 1936, Virginia simultaneously opened six parks, comprising, at the time, its entire state park system and was the first state to do so. Hungry Mother State Park (HMSP) was one of those original parks. The other five are: Douthat, Westmoreland, Fairy Stone, Staunton River and First Landing (originally Seashore). Local landowners donated much of the Hungry Mother State Park land for the purpose of developing a new state park.
In 1933, as the nation fell deep into the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created an innovative employment program intended to put a half-million unemployed young men to work across the country, calling it the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “The young men of the CCC built more than 40,000 bridges, planted two billion trees, improved thousands of beaches, roads and shorelines, and created 800 state parks, including the first six in Virginia.
An award-winning Best State Park, the 2,215 acre HMSP offers cabins; a family lodge; 118 campsites; a beach, a restaurant; walking, hiking, biking and multi-use paths (some paved); picnicking shelters; gift store and concessions, volleyball areas; interpretive and educational programs; and non-motorized boating, fishing and swimming at a 108-acre lake. Also available by reservation is Hemlock Haven, a 35-acre conference center site, and an amphitheater for small special events such as weddings and musical or theatrical entertainment.
In Smyth County, the AT traverses the eastern part of the county near Groseclose and comes by Marion near the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area (NRA) visitor’s center. The trail is marked by paint blazes and in its entirety usually takes a “through hiker” five to seven months to complete. The AT takes you through some of the oldest mountains on earth, the Appalachian Mountains, and is one of the oldest and longest continuous, designated and marked mountain footpaths in the world.
This section of the AT offers views of mountain meadows and rhododendron, wild ponies and wild berries, jagged rock and panoramic vistas unlike anywhere else in the state or along the rest of the trail. Hiking up on the roof of Virginia, the AT passes near the top of the state’s highest peak, Mount Rogers.
Outnumbered by trees more than 3,000 to 1, Smyth County is host to plenty of serenity, recreational activities and lifestyle amenities that only nature can provide. Any southeasterner worth his weight in salt knows it’s only polite to share, so we welcome you to come on into Smyth County and experience it for yourself.
For more information and attractions special to Smyth County, please visit www.VisitVirginiaMountains.com.