The Rugged Grandeur of Dickenson County, Virginia

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia’s Dickenson County is rich in Appalachian history and scenic splendor. It’s a strong-featured land full of opportunities for outdoor adventure, including epic whitewater rafting in October on the Russell Fork River as water is released from the John Flannagan Dam.

Two of the area’s rivers — the Cranesnest and the Russell Fork — are Virginia Scenic Rivers, designated by the Commonwealth of Virginia for their “outstanding scenic, recreational, historic, and natural characteristics [that are] of statewide significance for future generations.” They offer great opportunities for fishing, as do the Pound River, Laurel Lake, and the Flannagan Reservoir. Many of the area’s waterways are stocked with trout and walleye and several kinds of bass are also plentiful.

Known as the “Grand Canyon of the South,” the Breaks Interstate Park is a 4,500-acre scenic park that features a number of outdoor activities and envelopes both the Kentucky and Virginia sides of the state border. The park’s dominant feature is the 1,600-foot deep canyon that stretches for five miles. It is both one of the longest and deepest canyons east of the Mississippi River. There are miles of scenic trails that offer hiking, biking, and horseback riding opportunities. A lodge, cabins, and campground are also part of the park.

The history of Dickenson County can be experienced in several ways. A portion of the 325-mile Virginia Coal Heritage Trail runs through the area and is a way to experience the coal mining legacy of Appalachia, including the Dickenson County Coal Miners Memorial in Clinchco, which honors 309 men and women who have died in mining accidents since the early 1900s.

Finally, the Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center celebrates one of the legends of bluegrass music, Dr. Ralph Stanley, who called Dickenson County home for most of his life. His career spanned decades, first as a member of the Stanley Brothers and then as the leader of the Clinch Mountain Boys. He’s a member of both the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and the Grand Ole Opry.

The Music Center is one of the most important stops on the Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail — which follows U.S. Route 58 and celebrates the music of Appalachia — and is filled with memorabilia, interactive displays, and other educational material inspired by Stanley and the hill music of the region that he so well represented.