The Commonwealth of Virginia is an American state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is known as the "Old Dominion" and sometimes as "Mother of Presidents", because it is the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents. The geography and climate of the state are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which are home to much of the state's flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond, Virginia Beach is the most populous city, and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The state population is nearly eight million.
State history begins with the founding of the Virginia Colony in 1607 by the Virginia Company of London as the first permanent New World English colony. Land from displaced Native American tribes, including the Powhatan, and slavery each played significant roles in Virginia's early politics and plantation economy. Virginia was one of the Thirteen Colonies in the American Revolution and joined the Confederacy in the American Civil War, during which the state of West Virginia separated. Although traditionally conservative and historically part of the South, both major national parties are competitive in modern Virginia.
The state government, home to the oldest legislature in the Americas, has been repeatedly ranked most effective among U.S. states. It is unique in how it treats cities and counties equally, maintains most of the state's roads, and prohibits its Governors from serving consecutive terms. Virginia's economy has many sectors: agriculture in places like the Shenandoah Valley; federal agencies in Northern Virginia, including the Pentagon and CIA; and military facilities in Hampton Roads, home to the region's main seaport. The growth of the media and technology sectors have made computer chips the state's leading export, with the industry based on the strength of Virginia's public schools and universities. Virginia does not have a major professional sports franchise, but is home to several prominent collegiate sports programs.
The Chesapeake Bay separates most of the contiguous portion of the Commonwealth from the two-county peninsula of Virginia's Eastern Shore. The bay was formed following a meteoroid impact crater during the Eocene. Many of Virginia's rivers flow into the Chesapeake Bay, including the Potomac, Rappahannock, James, and York. These form three peninsulas into the Chesapeake. Geographically and geologically, Virginia is divided into five regions from east to west: Tidewater, Piedmont, Blue Ridge Mountains, Ridge and Valley, and Cumberland Plateau, also called the Appalachian Plateau.
The Tidewater is a coastal plain between the Atlantic coast and the fall line. It includes the Eastern Shore and major estuaries which enter the Chesapeake Bay. The Piedmont are a series of sedimentary and igneous rock-based foothills east of the mountains which were formed in the Mesozoic. The region, known for its heavy clay soil, includes the Southwest Mountains. The Blue Ridge are a physiographic province of the chain of Appalachian Mountains with the highest points in the state, the tallest being Mount Rogers at 5,729 feet (1,746 m). The Ridge and Valley region is west of the mountains, and includes the Great Appalachian Valley. The region is carbonate rock based, and includes Massanutten Mountain. The Cumberland Plateau and the Cumberland Mountains are in the south-west corner of Virginia, below the Allegheny Plateau. In this region rivers flow northwest, with a dendritic drainage system, into the Ohio River basin.
More than four-thousand caves exist in Virginia, with ten open for tourism. The Virginia seismic zone has not had a history of regular activity. Earthquakes are rarely above 4.5 on the Richter magnitude scale because Virginia is located centrally on the North American Plate. The largest earthquake, at an estimated 5.9 magnitude, was in 1897 in Blacksburg. Coal mining takes place in the three mountainous regions at forty distinct coal beds near Mesozoic basins. Besides coal, resources such as slate, kyanite, and sand and gravel are mined, with an annual value over $2 billion.