Two Rivers Region – Where Visions Become Reality
In 1784 a retired Virginia gentleman embarked on a business trip to visit his properties in the Western country. The trip also brought back his interest in a river passage, a corridor that could become a commercial artery to the West. The rivers of the new nation were the highways of commerce and his trip from his home in the Tidewater to the forks of the Ohio were in his thinking the “route west”.
Traveling on horseback up the Alexandria-Leesburg road (today’s Rt. 7) he approached the Blue Ridge up a winding road to “a notch in the ridgeline called Vestal’s Gap.” “At the crest, the slightest turn of the head offered him a panorama of two geological provinces, the Piedmont to the east, and the Shenandoah Valley to the west”. The Grand Idea, Joel Achenbach.
He traveled down the ridge across the Shenandoah for a visit with his brother and friends. It was not his first visit to the valley, for as a young 16 year old surveyor he not only surveyed the valley land but bought property along the Bullskin.
George Washington was the gentleman traveler and the land he surveyed and owned is now known as “The Land Between the Two Rivers”. His vision became a “route west”.
His vision of a navigable route to the west was translated into his plans for a system of by-pass canals that would increase commerce along the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. The valley would become a crossroads of migration, early innovation in crop rotation, grist mills, and invention.
If you retake the journey in 2010, and approach Vestal’s Gap (Keys Gap) up today’s Route 9 the Blue Ridge is still visible from Leesburg, but the vista from the notch while still panoramic is rapidly being altered to reveal a horizon stretching for miles into West Virginia. Yesterday’s Back County, today’s commercial hub of the Eastern Gateway. This route continues the tradition of linking the tidewater to the west, the Washington metropolitan area to West Virginia.
We have always been a nation on the move and never more so than in this two rivers region, where visions of a founding father became a reality that connected the nation.