The Roanoke Valley in southwest Virginia is an area adjacent to and including the Roanoke River between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Appalachian Plateau to the west. The valley includes much of Roanoke County, and two independent cities; Roanoke City and Salem.
The Roanoke Valley is sometimes synonymous with the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is made up of the political subdivisions of Roanoke City, Salem, Roanoke County, Botetourt County, Franklin County, and Craig County. Adjacent communities such as western Bedford County (part of the Lynchburg MSA) and eastern Montgomery County (part of the New River Valley MSA) are also often considered parts of the Roanoke Valley.
More frequently, the Roanoke Valley refers to the core urban and suburban areas, generally Roanoke City, Salem, Roanoke County within the geographic Roanoke Valley, and southern Botetourt County; however, areas of Franklin County and Bedford County near Smith Mountain Lake are becoming increasingly suburban.
The Roanoke Valley contains the lowest point above sea level in the mountains of southwest Virginia. As a result, the Norfolk and Western Railway chose the valley as its primary route between the ports of Hampton Roads in eastern Virginia and the coal fields of southwest Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
The Norfolk and Western was headquartered in Roanoke for nearly a century before merging with the Southern Railway; the newly merged Norfolk Southern's corporate headquarters moved to Norfolk. The railroad remains a major employer in the valley.