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Wise County, Virginia
Seal of Wise County, Virginia
Map of Virginia highlighting Wise County
Location in the state of Virginia
Map of the U.S. highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location in the U.S.
Founded 1856
Named for Henry A. Wise
Seat Wise
Largest city Wise
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

405 sq mi (1,050 km²)
404 sq mi (1,047 km²)
1 sq mi (3 km²), 0.29%
 -  Density

99.1/sq mi (38.2/km²)
Time zone Eastern : -5/

Wise County is a county located in the U.S. state of Virginia. In 1856, the county was formed from land taken from Lee, Scott, and Russell Counties. It was named after Henry A. Wise, who was the Governor of Virginia at the time. As of 2009, the population was 41,638,[1] making it the largest jurisdiction in terms of population outside of any metropolitan area in Virginia. Its county seat is Wise[2].


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 405 square miles (1,050 km²), of which 404 square miles (1,046 km²) is land and 1 square mile (3 km²) (0.29%) is water. The county is part of the Appalachians and has many mountainous features, including the peak of High Knob and Powell Valley.

Adjacent counties and cities[]

Powell Valley, as viewed from Benge's Gap

Major highways[]

  • US 23.svg U.S. Route 23
  • US 58.svg U.S. Route 58 Alternate
  • Virginia 63.svg State Route 63
  • Virginia 72.svg State Route 72
  • Virginia 83.svg State Route 83

National protected area[]

  • Jefferson National Forest (part)


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 4,508
1870 4,785 6.1%
1880 7,772 62.4%
1890 9,345 20.2%
1900 19,653 110.3%
1910 34,162 73.8%
1920 46,500 36.1%
1930 51,167 10.0%
1940 52,458 2.5%
1950 56,336 7.4%
1960 43,579 −22.6%
1970 35,947 −17.5%
1980 43,863 22.0%
1990 39,573 −9.8%
2000 40,123 1.4%

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 40,123 people, 16,013 households, and 11,513 families residing in the county. The population density was 99 people per square mile (38/km²). There were 17,792 housing units at an average density of 44 per square mile (17/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 96.88% White, 1.78% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.30% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.26% from other races, and 0.61% from two or more races. 0.73% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 16,013 households out of which 31.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.20% were married couples living together, 12.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.10% were non-families. 25.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.00% under the age of 18, 10.20% from 18 to 24, 28.00% from 25 to 44, 24.80% from 45 to 64, and 13.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 95.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.60 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $26,149, and the median income for a family was $32,898. Males had a median income of $28,983 versus $21,029 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,271. About 16.10% of families and 20.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.30% of those under age 18 and 12.30% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns[]


Public schools[]

Wise County Public Schools operates seventeen school facilities in the county for over 7,000 students.[4] For several years the Wise County School Board has considered consolidating high school, and in 2011 it voted to close its three smallest high schools and consolidate them into the three largest high schools. As of July 2011 the issue is tied up in a legal and financial dispute.[5]

Private schools[]

Wise County Christian School operates as a private school in the county.

Colleges and universities[]

  • University of Virginia's College at Wise, Wise
  • Mountain Empire Community College, Big Stone Gap



  • The Clinch Valley Times is a weekly newspaper serving Castlewood and St. Paul, Virginia, and the surrounding areas.
  • The Coalfield Progress [2] is a biweekly newspaper covering news through the county.
  • The Post also at [3] is a weekly newspaper serving Big Stone Gap, Virginia and the surrounding areas.

Radio Stations

  • WAXM
  • WDXC
  • WISE-FM (simulcast of WVTF)
  • WLSD
  • WNVA (AM)

Tourist attractions[]

Natural and Outdoor Recreation[]


High Knob Observation Tower

A large portion of the Jefferson National Forest is contained within Wise County, and the Clinch River winds through the county. These two factors, combined with Wise County's location in the Appalachian Mountains, mean that Wise County offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation.

In addition to many trails connecting to and surrounding the Appalachian Trail system, Wise county is home to many parks, including Miners' Park in Big Stone Gap and the Louis E. Henegar Miners' Memorial Park in Appalachia.

Among the unique features of Wise County are High Knob, a mountain which featured one of the last remaining Appalachian Fire Towers until its destruction by arson on October 31, 2007,[6] and Wetlands Estonoa, an Appalachian Wetland and part of the Clinch River Watershed.

Theater and the Arts[]

  • The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor Drama is performed in Big Stone Gap, Virginia throughout the summer. It is the Commonwealth of Virginia's official outdoor drama.
  • The Pro-Art Association offers a variety of theatrical, musical, and fine-arts events throughout the school year. It is headquartered in Wise.
  • The Wise County Summer Academy of Art, sponsored by Wise County Public Schools and funded in part by the Virginia Commission of Arts, provides fine arts programming for children throughout the summer months, including large scale productions and touring performance opportunities.
  • The Appalachian Children's Theater (ACT) promotes performing arts and fine arts education for children in Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, and Northeast Tennessee. In 2006, the organization opened its newly renovated facility in Downtown Wise. [4]
  • The Charles W. Harris Art Gallery is located on the site of the Wise County Public Library in Wise.

Festivals and Fairs[]

  • Clinch River Days takes place in St. Paul each spring. [5]
  • The Virginia-Kentucky District Fair is held each summer in Wise.
  • The Wise County Famous Fall Fling is an annual event held in Downtown Wise. [6]
  • Coeburn holds its annual Guest River Rally over the Labor Day weekend in September.
  • Appalachia Coal Railroad Days is held each summer in Appalachia.
  • Pound Heritage Days is held annually the week before Labor Day in Pound.


Wise County Courthouse in Wise

  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Wise County, Virginia
  • Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park
  • Wise County Courthouse
  • High Knob Lookout Tower
  • Colonial Hotel
  • E. M. Fulton House


  • Lonesome Pine Raceway


  1. ^ [1]. Weldon Cooper Center Population Estimates Retrieved January 26, 2011
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ School Information
  5. ^ June 23: Mediator sought
  6. ^ Spark It Up!!!: High Knob Tower Burns

External links[]

Coordinates: 36°58′N 82°37′W / 36.97, -82.62

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Wise County, Virginia. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.