Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Scott County Geography


     Scott County is located in the extreme southwestern part of the state and is one of the narrowest parts of the Great Valley of Virginia. The valley in Scott County lies between the Cumberland Plateau on the northwest, and the Appalachian Mountains on the Southwest. A small area of the northern part of the county is in the Cumberland Plateau and the southern edge is about thirty-five miles northwest of the foot of the Appalachian Mountains.

     The county comprises an area of 538 square miles and has a population of approximately 25,000. When the county was first formed it comprised 624 square miles. In 1856, 89 square miles was cut off when Wise County was formed.

     Elevations in the county range from 1,200 feet at the points where the North Fork Holston and Clinch Rivers cross the Virginia-Tennessee boundary line to 4,000 feet at Camp Rock in the northern part of the county. The elevations of several locations are as follows:

     In the northern part, Dungannon, 1,400 feet; Nickelsville, 2,000 feet; Snowflake, 1,600 feet. In the southern part: Gate City, 1,400 feet; Hiltons, 1,300 feet. In the western part: Pattonsville, 1,300 feet; Duffield 1,412 feet; Clinchport, 1,286 feet; Speers Ferry, 1,390 feet.

     Powell Mountain, in the northwestern part of the county, and its crest, forms the county line for about 28 miles. Its elevation reaches 4,000 feet at Camp Rock, the highest point in the county.

     Stone Mountain is in the northeastern part of the county. It is 11 miles long and mile wide and has an elevation of 2,700 feet. Chestnut Ridge is eight miles long and with an elevation of 2,000 feet, lies immediately south of, and parallel to Stone Mountain.

     Clinch Mountain extends for about 30 miles across the county. It has a winding contour and a narrowing crest. High Knob is its highest point, has an elevation of 3,150 feet.

     Moccasin Ridge crosses the southwestern part of the county just north of Clinch Mountain and has the same trend as that mountain. It is about 23 miles long and reaches an elevation of 2,300 feet at the Russell County line.

     Cooper Ridge begins in the central part, at the junction of the Clinch River and Copper Creek. It extends northeastward for about 24 miles and reaches an elevation of 2,500 feet.

     Pine Mountain, a narrow ridge lying just south of Clinch Mountain, has an elevation of 1,700 feet. Lying between Pine Mountain and Clinch Mountain in Poor Valley.

     In the western part of the county are Stone Ridge, Newman Ridge and the Big Ridge. Stone Ridge and Newman Ridge extend southwestward into Tennessee. These ridges have an elevation from 1,200 feet to 1,500 feet.

     Just south of Duffield, in the western part of the county, lies Purchase Ridge. The part in the county ranges from three to nine miles in length and from 2,000 to 2,400 feet in elevation.

     The Natural Tunnel passes through Purchase Ridge and is one of the most beautiful natural scenic wonders of the state. The tunnel was cut through solid limestone rock by Stock Creek.

     Rye Cove is an unusual feature in the county. It compromises about 25 square miles of markedly smooth relief. It is about six miles long and four miles wide. Its elevation ranges from 1,500 to 1,900 feet. It was here the worst tragedy of modern times occurred in Scott County. A tornado struck on May 2, 1929, destroying the Rye Cove School building, killing students and one teacher and left scores of others injured.

     Outlets for the county are the Clinch River, the North Fork Clinch River, and the North Fork Holston River. The Clinch River flows diagonally across the county from the northeastern corner and crosses the Virginia-Tennessee boundary line near the southwestern corner. Its main tributaries entering from the north are Copper Creek and Stony Creek. Copper Creek flows from the east.

     The North Fork Clinch River crosses the extreme western part of the county and flows into Tennessee at the southwestern corner.

     The North Fork Holston River flows in a southwestward direction. Big Moccasin and Opossum Creek are the main tributaries. Big Moccasin Creek enters from the east out of Russell County. It passes through Clinch Mountain at Big Moccasin Gap, which is a water level gap. Oppossum Creek enters Scott County from Tennessee and flows eastward near the Tennessee boundary line before emptying into the North Fork Holston river.

     There are many small streams in the county that have been named. There are 87 branches and 32 creeks that have names and perhaps as many more without names. These streams form an intermittent drainage-way extending from the main streams to all sections of the county.

     Big Moccasin Gap is perhaps the most important natural feature in the county for in it centered much of the early history and development. Through the gap, Daniel Boone and his friends carved the Wilderness Road to Kentucky in 1775, and through it thousands of pioneer settlers passed on their way to Kentucky and the west. Most of the goods used by the early settlers passed on their way to Kentucky and the west. Most of the goods used by the early settlers who lived north of the gap as far away as the Clinch River were hauled through the gap, before the coming of the railroads. The first railroad in the county was built through the gap in 1887.

     Through the gap passed the Cherokee Indians on their way to the hunting grounds south of the Clinch River, and later to attack the settlers who had settled along the Clinch River and Moccasin Valley.


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