West Virginia

West VirginiaWest VirginiaThe State of West Virginia is known as the Mountain State because of its central location within the Appalachian Mountain Range, with approximately 75% of it lying within the Cumberland and Allegheny Plateaus. Charleston, the largest city of the state, is also its capital city.

Geography

Although not displaying many high altitude areas – the average elevation is 460 meters - the two plateaus are nevertheless rugged in the extreme and provide a number of magnificent natural environments, most of which are under some form of conservation.

The Monongahela National Forest Area is a colder mountain area - its highest point is Spruce Knob, a 4,863 feet peak covered by natural arboreal forest and spruce plantings.

Other designated eco-management areas include:

  • the Appalachian National Scenic Trail,
  • the Bluestone National Scenic River,
  • the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge,
  • the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Park,
  • the Gauley River National Recreational Area,
  • the George Washington National Forest,
  • the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and
  • the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Spruce KnobSpruce KnobOriginally, much of the State benefited from natural hardwood forests of oak, chestnut, beech, white pine, and maple, although many areas have been converted to agricultural use over time.

Climate

The West Virginian climate is sub-tropical, and humid, especially in the lower lying, southwestern areas that include Charleston, Huntington, and parts of the Eastern Panhandle where hot humid summers and milder winters are characteristic. Elsewhere, the more elevated parts enjoy a humid continental climate, with marginally cooler summers and cool to cold winters, especially in the mountains.

Things to See and Do

It is difficult to single out a sample of attractions in a state as well endowed as West Virginia. The following are some of the more popular destinations, although others may prefer the eco-managed areas already mentioned.

Berkeley

The historic town of Berkley was founded on coal, and it is not surprising that the Exhibition Coal Mine is such a key attraction. Other points of interest are the Winterplace Ski Resort, and Wildwood, once home to the city's founding father, and now a Civil War Museum.

Berkeley-SpringsBerkeley-SpringsBerkley Springs

Berkley Springs, which is in the northeastern tip of the panhandle, is famous as the oldest hot water spa in the United States. George Washington loved to come here and established its long-standing reputation. It is more peaceful now than it was then, although there is still plenty to see and do in this historic spot.

Grafton

Grafton is a pleasantly friendly West Virginian town of just 5,000 permanent residents. It has two claims to fame: the first casualty of the Civil War occurred in Grafton and, on a more positive note, Mother's Day was first officially declared here on May 10, 1908.

Harper's Ferry

Harper's Ferry is where the famous John Brown launched his attack on the Union weapon and ammunition store on October 16, 1859. His intention was to establish a military base with the help of freed slaves – unfortunately for him, Confederate General Robert E. Lee overwhelmed his smaller force, and he was hanged in Charleston less than two months later.

Lewisburg

Lewisburg, which lies a short distance from White Sulphur Springs and was ranked among the Top 10 National Geographic USA Communities, is a preserved historical town that still adds enchantment to balmy evenings with gas lamps burning in the streets.

State Capitol West VirginiaState Capitol West VirginiaCharleston

The State Capital of Charleston, after which the famous dance was named, lies on the banks of the Kanawha River where locals like to spend their evenings. The great golden dome of the State Capitol Building is among the finest in the country and draws thousands of visitors every year.

Morgantown

The scenic West Virginian town of Morgantown is home to the State University and a great base from which to discover the nearby countryside.

Moundsville

Moundsville is a good town to visit despite its name, which refers to the indigenous Indian burial grounds that are found nearby. While on the subject, it is also possible to visit the 1886 West Virginia State Penitentiary that finally closed its doors in 1995.

Parkersburg

The city of Parkersburg has much to offer to the visitor in the form of museums and cultural events. For those who might get bored with Fenton Art Glass, North Bend State Park is not that far away.

Philippi

Civil War buffs must include a visit to the town of Philippi, which was the site of the first land battle of the Civil War. The historic covered bridge has been restored since a disastrous fire, and much is being done to preserve the historic nature of the place.

Wheeling Suspension BridgeWheeling Suspension BridgeWheeling

The final battle of the American Revolution took place at Wheeling in 1872, when Fort Henry was attacked by a small loyalist force comprising 40 British soldiers and about 260 indigenous Indians, and today a memorial marks the spot. On a more contemporary note, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is thought to be one of the world's largest and is a fine example of that particular engineering style.

White Sulphur Springs

White Sulphur Springs, which is located at the southern extreme of the Monongahela National Forest, is a modern and elegant spa where every conceivable attention may be obtained.

West Virginia, with its magnificent mountains and gentler lower-lying areas has much to offer the traveler, and those who choose to overlook it, do so to their own disadvantage.

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West Virginia

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