February 27, 2010


This is part one of an article written by Basye artist Nancy Meyer.

view of Orkney Springs and mountainsYou have to look very closely at a detailed map of the Commonwealth of Virginia to find little dots with the names “Basye” and “Orkney Springs”. The two villages are situated in a small valley between Great North Mountain in the Allegheny Mountain Range and Supinlick Ridge to the east. Both villages are unincorporated, very old and very small rural communities set at the eastern edge of the George Washington National Forest in Shenandoah County

The entire area is one of the best-kept secrets and most beautiful places in the Commonwealth of Virginia to live and play. Here you will find the pure forests, crystal streams, clean mountain air, roaming wildlife, and decades-old family names very well-known in the Shenandoah Valley.

Over a century ago, Basye was just a settlement along the road to Orkney Springs…named after a long-gone family. Orkney Springs’ name dates back to families who originally came from Scotland.

What of the ghosts of the valley families that once lived, worked and died in this very place? Fifty years ago the land along Stoney Creek where Bryce Resort now sits was home to a number of farmsteads with structures, large vegetable gardens, fields of corn, wheat and barley; livestock included chickens, cattle and hogs.

Orkney Springs

Orkney Springs is located at an elevation of 1400 feet and Basye at an elevation of 1350 feet at the foot of Great North Mountain and the George Washington National Forest in Shenandoah County, Virginia. There are seven springs south of Shrine Mont which allowed the development of 3 spring resorts before the turn of the century. These springs are the head waters of this particular branch of Stoney Creek. Stoney Creek runs through Orkney Springs, Basye, and the Bryce Resort valley. It empties into the north fork of the Shenandoah River, which makes its confluence with the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and on to the Chesapeake Bay.

hotelThe lands surrounding Orkney Springs were provided by a land grant in 1774. The area was filled with medicinal waters containing mineral salts that create a bright yellow mossy fringe to accumulate on the rocks they touch. The community began to grow in the 1830's with commercial development evolving in the 1850's. Surviving from that great development period is Virginia House, a hotel with 3 stories of porches around the front and sides constructed between 1873 and 1876.

The oldest building in the complex is the 1853 Maryland House, also a structure with porches and a court yard in the center. It was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Other hotels, specifically the Orkney Springs Hotel, built before the Civil War, are prime examples of early architecture and are listed in the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

Shrine Mont and the Orkney Springs Hotel complex with two youth camps are owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. In addition to church families conducting retreats and cultural mini-conferences, it is home to the Shenandoah Music Festival’s annual summertime concerts.

The George Washington National Forest has 47 blazed and named hiking trails, old logging roads and some homesteads. Great North Mountain is 2,600 feet elevation and has an extensive orange blazed trail on the top. It is just 8 miles on State Route 720, Crooked Run Road, from Basye to the top. This is a hunting ground in the fall for deer, bear, and birds and was the source of iron ore for Liberty, Van Buren, and Henrietta [Alum Springs] furnaces. It is laced with old trails and wagon roads and is a hunting paradise.

The area is conveniently about 2 hours away from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area and parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Many residents move here from large cities and high-pressure jobs to find an active but less stressful environment. Some move from the north seeking warmer weather and some purchase a second home here planning eventually to become permanent residents.

The Valley has a rich history going back to the 1700’s and provides Civil War buffs a field day with its history, details of the war, and the war’s impact on all of Shenandoah County and surrounding counties. Many just like it because it is a true mountain and farm community with people interested in helping each other.
Next: About Bryce and the Surrounding Communities

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  1. Thank you amazing blog, do you have twitter, facebook or something similar where i can follow your blog

    Sandro Heckler

  2. Sandro,

    At the lower left there is a link for following the blog. Thanks for visiting.


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