The Piedmont Region of Virginia

What makes the Piedmont a distinct region of Virginia?

PiedmontWell, the name of the region (Piedmont="foot of mountain") provides a clue.

Most Virginians living just east of the Blue Ridge would recognize the term. Piedmont originally referred to the equivalent area between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea in Northern Italy. There are other regions outside Virginia that are also "foothills," including the Arctic Foothills between the Brooks Range and the Arctic Ocean.

The US Department of Agriculture - National Soil Survey Center, in the National Soil Survey Handbook, has modified the definition in the American Geological Institute's Glossary of Geology to define Piedmont as:
piedmont - (adjective) Lying or formed at the base of a mountain or mountain range; e.g., a piedmont terrace or a piedmont pediment. (noun) An area, plain, slope, glacier, or other feature at the base of a mountain; e.g., a foothill or a bajada. In the United States, the Piedmont (noun) is a low plateau extending from New Jersey to Alabama and lying east of the Appalachian Mountains
Piedmont/Blue RidgeMost Virginians would say the western boundary of the Piedmont is the rise of the Blue Ridge mountains, or perhaps the crestline of the Blue Ridge if you're a "lumper" and include the mountains themselves rather than a "splitter" who separates the Blue Ridge from the foothills. The Ground Water Atlas of the United States, published by the US Geological Survey, explains how one set of scientists drew the line. If you were taking the Commonwealth of Virginia class (GEOG202) at Radford University, you'd distinguish between the "outer" and "inner" Piedmont.

Look at these maps, and notice how the Piedmont extends completely through Virginia. However, the northern and southern boundaries of the "cultural region" known as the Piedmont in Virginia may not coincide with the boundaries accepted by the geologists and hydrologists.

Jim Fonseca in his Nine Regions of Virginia identified a Northern Piedmont and a Southern Piedmont-Valley Industrial Zone. In his study, the northern boundary was defined by the western extent of the Northern Virginia metropolis. The James River divided the Piedmont into two zones - and Dr. Fonseca included the industrial area of Roanoke/Blacksburg in the southern unit because of common transportation corridors and economic interests that were more significant than the presence of the Blue Ridge.

The northern Piedmont is a triangle between Washington, DC, Richmond, and Charlottesville - and Virginia's fastest-growing counties are the suburbs of those urban centers. Highways connecting those cities are one way to establish boundaries for the region - I-95 on the east, I-66 on the north, US Route 29 on the west, and I-64 on the south.

Another way to define the regional boundaries is by the planning districts.


Regions of Virginia
Virginia Places