Named for Elizabeth I, England’s “Virgin Queen,” the state is also known as the Old Dominion–in recognition of the decision of Charles II to make the colony a fourth dominion of his realm, after England, Scotland, and Ireland–and as the Mother of Presidents, because it is the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson).
Officially called the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state forms a rough triangle, with North Carolina and Tennessee to the south; Maryland, Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast and east; and West Virginia and Kentucky to the northwest and west. Founded in 1607, Jamestown, near the southeastern corner of the state, represents the first permanent English settlement in North America. Virginia played a pivotal role in the American Revolution and the Civil War.
Land & Resources
Virginia has five distinctive topographical regions. Moving in from the Atlantic coast, the Tidewater, or coastal plain, is succeeded by the Piedmont or PIEDMONT PLATEAU, the BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS, the ridge and valley region, and the CUMBERLAND PLATEAU. The last three are part of the APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS.
Tidewater Virginia, including the Eastern Shore–the southern tip of the DELMARVA PENINSULA separated from the remainder of the state by CHESAPEAKE BAY–is generally low-lying and sandy, rising to about 90 m (300 ft) as it meets the Piedmont. Broad estuaries divide the western Tidewater into a series of peninsulas reaching into the bay.
The rolling hills of Piedmont Virginia extend southwest from Alexandria in the north. The towns of Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Emporia lie on the FALL LINE. The region widens from 65 km (40 mi) at the Potomac to about 260 km (160 mi) at the North Carolina line. The continuous Blue Ridge of Precambrian rock rises from about 300 m (1,000 ft) at its base at the western edge of the Piedmont, reaching elevations of 350 m (1,200 ft) in the north to more than 1,700 m (5,500 ft) in the south. Virginia’s highest point, Mount Rodgers, is found in the wider southern portion of the mountains.
The ridge and valley section of the state begins with the limestone-floored Great Valley and continues to the West Virginia border with a series of elongated hills and valleys trending northeast-southwest. In the extreme southwestern portion of Virginia lies a small part of the Cumberland Plateau of Kentucky at an average elevation of 840 m (2,750 ft).