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West Virginia Collage

The Wild Wonder of West Virginia

The only state in the United States to be entirely within a mountain range, West Virginia is absolutely one of a kind. Totally within the Appalachian Mountains, the state's nickname is the Mountain State and its motto is mountaineers are always free. Three quarters of the state is located in the Cumberland Plateau and Allegheny Plateau with rugged difficult mountainous terrain all around. At first, the area was claimed by Pennsylvania and Virginia, so the Continental Congress was petitioned to make a new territory named Westsylvania. Land companies holding vast interests in the disputed area tried to influence Congress, but then the establishment of Kentucky foiled that, and many people in the West Virginia area were happy with the results. Then during the civil war, the Wheeling Conventions allowed West Virginia to break from Virginia and it was accepted as a Union state in 1863. It is considered a southern state though since it is mostly below the Mason-Dixon line.

West Virginia is an extraordinarily beautiful state, with so many glorious natural spots, and is originally known for its coal mines and lumber interests. The state has a variety of outdoor activities that make it a very special place to visit. Whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hunting, mountain biking, fishing, skiing and spelunking are the most well acknowledged.

The state has some magnificent national parks; Monongahela National Forest, the New River Gorge (which is a 1000 foot canyon dug out by the New River, Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreational Area, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, George Washington National Forest, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Bluestone National Scenic River, Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and the Gauley River National Recreation Area.

Large stands of hardwood lumber helped the state with its growth and economy, including: sycamore, beech, oak, chestnut, white pine, willow and maple. Because of this biodiversity and great natural beauty, many state residents consider their state to be Almost Heaven. Although the Appalachians are considered some of the oldest mountains on the earth, the makeup of the rock strata suggests many years of change. Below the soil lies shale, limestone, bituminous coal and sandstone.

The state has had its share of history, at one time being surveyed by George Washington himself. Native Americans didn't settle in the territory, but certainly did hunt and trap. Around 1725, German immigrants began to build cabins along the Potomac, near Shepherdstown, and soon more came. British outposts in the mountainous area were almost wiped out during the French and Indian Wars. Governor Murray of Virginia brought men over the mountains and almost massacred the Shawnee Nation. Sometime after the American Revolution attacks slowed down and eventually stopped, except for the occasional run in. Folks were getting tired of fighting and wanted to spend more time building and planting.

West Virginia was fortunate to intensify its natural resources after the Civil War, with salt and coal mining. Although the salt mines had been utilized since the 1700s, it began to decrease by the war, it again became important for the Confederacy at first, then the Union. Better mining methods helped to bring the state back to a major salt supplier. During the latter part of the 1800s, a much greater resource was materialized with the mining of coal. The industrial revolution in this country and the use of steam engines in trains and ships demanded more all over the world. Residents, both Indian and immigrants had known about the use of coal for fuel and heating, they could only manage small amounts. When the Civil War ended and railroading began to expand across the country and around the world, a more sophisticated method was created and the rails could carry the huge amounts needed everywhere. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the anthracite coal mines were depleted and the necessary money to develop the bituminous coal mines in West Virginia became available. As the area railroads were completed, coal piers appeared and the mines were soon working overtime to keep up the world's demand. It was a difficult task to bring rail lines into the area because of the mountainous terrain, but with money and determination, the task was achieved. Still, workers and consistent rail lines were continuously needed and as the need for more coal escalated, the hazards of coal mining and the environmental issues began to grow as well. Actually, the same concerns are still viable today.  As valuable as coal is, it isn't the only mineral that is highly prized in the state, country or world. In 1928, a 34+ carat diamond that became known as the Jones Diamond was discovered.

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West Virginia Tours

Tours in West Virginia

Listed are some of the beautiful state parks that will thrill you, enchant you and mesmerize you with their glorious sights; that include lodge parks and cabin parks. Those parks that have lodges are as follows: Blackwater Falls State Park, Tygart Lake State Park, Chief Logan Lodge, Twin Falls State Park, Hawks Nest State Park, Pipestem Resort State Park, Cacapon Resort State Park and North Bend State Park. Those with cabins are Watoga, Lost River, Cass Scenic Railroad and Bluestone State Parks. The Blennerhassett Island has a mansion. There are many whitewater rafting areas for a wonderful and thrilling adventure and by staying in one of the state parks, you will have a great time. Also, motorcycle tours of the state, as well as self-guided tours. In the fall is a fantastic time to tour with the foliage at its most spectacular, going by auto, bike or just hiking through the mountains. Almost anywhere along the New River Gorge, you will find a host of companies and businesses offering whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking and rafting. There are rock climbing outfitters, mountaineering, fishing, hiking and walking with or without tour guides. The state's residents claim to have the best whitewater rafting and mountain climbing in the country. You would have to check it out to know for sure, but one thing is for sure; there are more outfitters for this kind of thrilling adventure than any other endeavors.

If you are interested in a whitewater rafting tour, then you certainly have come to the right state. With dozens of companies offering this once in a lifetime adventure, you can not only ride the rapids, but spend the night camping along the majestic New River. The sights and sounds of this fantastic journey is something to be awe inspiring. The river isn't all rapids and the beautiful scenery along its banks as you float along will be something you will cherish and remember forever. There are canyons, a gigantic gorge, natural wonders of all varieties as well as many delightful animals along the way. Truly a treasure to hold onto.  Another great way to tour the river's area is with an ATV. These tours include instructional sessions and at least 2 and a half hours of ATV adventure. They also offer up some amazing horseback riding tours and have a paintball course on the site. This is quite the different kind of tour and you must be at least 18 to drive.

Let's get ready for some spine-tinkling adventure by taking a tour with the number 1 ghost tour in America. Located in Parkersburg, these brave guides will tell you about all the mysterious happenings in the state. Go visit the actual places haunted by spirits, ghosts and mysteries, oh my.

The fall season is a marvelous time to visit and tour the state, by car. During the earlier days of October, a great place to start your tour is Wheeling that is known for its Victorian architecture.  Independence Hall is where West Virginia seceded from Virginia and the Center Market Square is located for a casual stroll through an area with renovated shops of unusual fare.  The huge outfitter Cabela is located here and has a wildlife museum. Going south, you will run into Sisterville, that in years gone by was an oil and gas boomtown, where the deluxe Wells Inn sits by the Sisterville Ferry that has been in continuous operation since 1817.  In nearby Williamstown, Fenton Art Glass creates the finest pieces in hand-blown glass works. You can bike through various towns in this area and go through 13 tunnels located on the gorgeous North Bend Rail Trail.
The fall color reaches its best in mid-October in Parkersburg with its lavish 19th century homes and elaborately renovated hotel.  You can grab a cruise by sternwheeler here to Blennerhassett Island, where costumed guides tell of the supposed plot between Aaron Burr and the Irish aristocrat Harman Blennerhassett to build an empire in the south.   Usually in late October, the southern area of the state is especially colorful. In Huntington, an old railroad town, a casual walk will brighten your horizons.  In Milton, Blenko Glass continues the beautiful art of glass blowing and in Hinton, you can take a fall tour on the New River Train.  The capitol compound area is considered to be one of the most statuesque in the United States, arrayed with marble and gold leaf.  Close by, with its black box theater, gift shop, planetarium, art museum, snack bar, performance hall and big format films, stands the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences.  Also, at Charleston, you can head to Tamarck with spectacular West Virginian arts, food and handcrafts.  Fayetteville is in the very center of the best white water rafting in the state along the awesome New River Gorge National River, close by is the bridge; with fantastic miles upon miles of mountain biking and hiking paths.  Eastward from here is the pristine town of Lewisburg, with its historical buildings dating from the 18th century.  Gas lamps, antique shops and charming storefronts and no overhead power lines to deter from the ambience of this special place.  Down the road a piece is White Sulphur Springs, where the world renown Greenbrier resort sprawls with plenty of recreational things to do, delicious cuisine, 3 championship golf courses, a spa, splendid accommodations and a unique tour of the defunct top secret bunker built to protect the president and congress during the Cold War.  When the first shades of color appear on the trees of Coopers Rock State Forest in the end of September, the majestic views along the 1200 foot Cheat River Gorge are unbelievable. Just east of the city Of Morgantown, the areas is well known for its great camping, hiking and hunting.  This city's university has tours on its transportation system, Personal Rapid Transit, which is a completely automatic computer operated system and the first of its kind in the world.

Touring the state during the fall foliage season is a most memorable time. A rebuilt 1774 fort representing the life of the frontier people and all the artifacts are located at Prickett's Fort State Park close to Fairmont. Philippi Covered Bridge, the longest covered bridge still in use on a federal highway, is the first place that the Civil War started. In Jane Lew is Stonewall Jackson's homestead with the authentic family dwellings. There are other tours that will tantalize and mesmerize you including the mountain magic tour, the golden gateway tour, and the West Virginia state park fall events tours. These wonderful areas ablaze with colors will be a feast for your senses, the trees sitting in brown, orange, red and variations of these colors, the chill in the air and the sounds of the birds and wind will enchant you always.

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Things to do in West Virginia

Things to do in West Virginia

Looking for the unusual will be easy and difficult in this strange place called Ansted, West Virginia. Or rather the Mystery Hole as it is called there. It is impossible to tell exactly what it is or isn't, so you will have to go there to find out and just pass it off as folklore. It is close to the New River Gorge, so your visit won't be a bust if you decide you have been bamboozled. There is a sign that tells you the rules of the "hole" stating no cameras or cell phones; as well as no one with heart problems, vertigo or high blood pressure. Also stated not responsible for accidents or after effects and shoes recommended. However, in the brochure, it states that you will see a ball roll uphill and a person sitting on a chair balanced on a strip of wood on a wall. That is all the information available. The real discovery will be up to you.  

Another unusual tourist spot is the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley West Virginia. It is actually a coal mine closed in 1910 and reopened in 1960 for tourists. It is a ride in a coal car through the mine with a guide telling stories about everything there. Bring a sweatshirt and don't stand up. It is grungy, so if the ladies in the group or family aren't especially interested in what a coal mine looks, feels and smell like than don't bother. You don't get out of the car and it can be somewhat nerve-wracking to some who might not like being underground for any length of time.  Continuing on this vein, visit the world's largest teapot in Chester, where the area's pottery business is thriving. Originally a Hire's Root Beer ad promo, it was sold and put on this lawn.

In Fayetteville, you can observe the impressive single arch steel span bridge, the second highest in the world. It is 876 feet down to the New River Gorge and a spectacle on the 3rd Saturday in October when you are allowed to jump, with over 250,000 people watching you. Rappellers and parachutists come here for the thrill of a lifetime jumping into the gorge below. This is the only day the bridge is closed and jumping allowed.

In New Vrindaban rises the Prabhupada's Palace of Gold and City of God.  It is called America's Taj Mahal with the palace of Gold shining with turrets and minarets, garden lined paths and a 30 foot dancing acolyte statue.  Sacred cow and elephant statues are there for photo scenes, all within a gorgeously serene setting in the West Virginia hills.  Other notable places to visit include: Mummies of the Insane in Philippi, the Point Pleasant Farm Museum and the most famous Point Pleasant attraction, the Mothman, complete with statue, museum and shops for authentic memorabilia.  Made famous by the 2001 movie, "The Mothman Prophecies", it has been a long time since the Mothman terrorized over 100 of the town's locals.  In Sam Black Church West Virginia is the Greenbrier Ghost Trial Marker, where a young woman was murdered and her ghost stood at the foot of her mother's bed for four days telling her she had been killed by her husband.  He was tried, convicted and sent to the penitentiary based on that and other evidence.  The only instance where a ghost has helped catch their killer.  As we continue on this happy jaunt through the land of West Virginia and its bizarre offbeat tourist attractions, we must stop at the Organ Cave in Ronceverte.  The brochure tells us of a majestic organ, a frozen waterfall, as well as sponge beds and debris left by the Confederacy's saltpeter mining.  And also Thomas Jefferson was supposedly there in 1778 discovering and removing a complete skeleton of a gigantic monster or dinosaur.  The dino's footprint is still there.  

Getting back to a somewhat normal vacation, in Grafton is the International Mother's Day Shrine, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, John Brown's Wax Museum in Harper's Ferry, the smallest church in 48 states in Horse Shoe Run and the Lost World Caverns in Lewisburg. These caverns are a fantastic journey into the lower earth. The main cave is over a thousand feet long and 10 stories high. You are able to take whatever path you want, going around and over huge slabs of rocks, and then at the back is start of the wild cave going on for over a mile. It you still have a thirst for the different, you can always visit the former state prison at Moundsville that closed as a prison in 1995 and opened for tourism later on. They have tours, and once each month you can sleep over to visit the ghosts.