Friday, May 13, 2011

A Visit To Shenandoah National Park’s New Rockfish Gap Entrance Station

Today I stopped by to check out the new Rockfish Gap Entrance Station at the southern most entrance to Shenandoah National Park.  The Entrance Station is just north of the junction of Skyline Drive (the roadway follows the length of Shenandoah) and the northern terminus of The Blue Ridge Parkway where I spent twenty six years of my National Park Service career.  The new Station replaces the small wooden structure that for seventy years served as the first job location for many career Park Rangers during their first job with the Park Service as a fee collector.  The old entrance station also served as a late night way station and source of communications for park rangers from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Old Rockfish Gap Entrance Station

The entrance station had no running water, no bathroom facilities, a single telephone line, and at times periodic electric service.  It remained the only National Park Service building open for many miles during the winter when the facilities at Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway were shut down.

Although there were no modern bathroom features at the Entrance Station, there was a pit toilet just over the hill down a steep and uneven trail.  I remember many a cold winter night slipping and sliding down that trail to use the “facilities.”  Not only was one relieved of the pressures that may have been urging them to this location you were rewarded with what had to be one of the best views from a pit toilet in the National Park Service.  One could sit there and look up the Shenandoah Valley and almost be distracted from the cold, odor, and during the summer the flies.

The new Entrance Station is missing some of the character of the old facility, but it does offer accommodations that most modern humans are attuned to in today’s world.  There is an indoor bathroom with running water, a flush toilet, and a sink to wash your hands.  I did note that there is no longer a view from this windowless but inordinately large room.  The building is heated, air conditioned, has the latest in security and air quality monitoring systems that run on a more permanent and reliable power supply.  There is even an indoor room accessible to visitors to obtain backcountry permits and ask for more detailed information.
The New Rockfish Gap Entrance Station
Probably the most important part of the new Entrance Station

An Park Ranger View of the interior of the new Rockfish Gap Entrance Station

The loss of character with this new structure may not produce the nostalgia and memories but does provide a much more efficient, secure, and healthy environment for employees and visitors.


  1. Kimberly Burnette-DeanMay 13, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    WOW!!!! I just can't believe how nice the new entrance station is! Posh! Although it does not have the "cool factor" of the old one!

  2. The new station seems to experience the same weather as the old. ;-)

  3. Yes, fog is a very common occurence at Rockfish Gap. As I would often tell visitors who were disappointed by fog obscuring days, "This is just another of the many moods of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Without damp days like this we would not have the diverse and dense vegetation you see before you."
    We lived at Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway for three years. We would joke that it was the foggiest location in the park. When ever my in-laws came to visit we were completely shrouded in fog. We would often show them photos and post cards of what it could look like behind the veil of clouds.