At least two of West Virginia's rivers can match up well with almost any rivier in the US for quality white water rafting. The Gauley during September and October, and the New River. Ours was a spring run on the New River. There are several river guide companies. We chose Rivermen because they can provide overnight lodging and gave the best price.
Durning spring runs on the New River you have higher, faster water, with more excitment than fall runs. On the Gauley the high water is in the fall when they open the floodgates on the dam. Be perpared to get wet! The water can be cold so you might consider renting a wet suit.
Each raft is accompnied by a guide in a kayak to insure anyone that falls overboard gets rescued. This kayaker also takes pictures of your trip that can be purchased.
Tamarack exists to showcase the best in arts & crafts from West Virginia. All of the more than 2,500 artists/craftsmen who sell there must be selected by going through a jury process. They submit samples of their work which are judged by a team of experts & evaluated as to whether or not the work is of a quality to be sold/exhibited at Tamarack (which is a world-class arts and crafts center).
You can shop, dine, watch craft demonstations, attend theatre performances & look at exhibits in the gallery. You will see stunning items for sale, including textiles, agricultural products, glass, pottery, wood, metal, jewelry, quilts, & wearable art. There are things available in a wide variety of price ranges. For example, Tamarack has coffee tables for sale which ring up at a mere $18,000--I've seen some of them--they are truly works of art! But there are more reasonably priced items too. There are six artisan studios at which resident artists pursue their craft. Currently they have a blacksmith, potter, woodworking husband/wife team who make musical instruments, a glassblower and a texile artisan in residence.
If you are hungry, the food court is called "A taste of West Virginia." This is no fast-food type food court--it's managed by the world famous Greenbrier Resort & is staffed with true chefs. The menu features regional specialties. A sample of the menu offerings and prices: "Appalachian Mountain Burger with Red Eye Country Ham, Fried Green Tomatoes, Swiss Cheese, and Real McCoy Mustard Sauce. Served with Golden French Fries and Dill Pickle Spear.....$7.95 Sandwich Only.....$6.95" Or how about "Pan-Fried Fillet of West Virginia Rainbow Trout with Your Choice of Two Side Dishes.....One Fillet $8.95..Two Fillets $13.95" You can get less expensive meals than these--the two fillets of rainbow trout are the only thing I've seen on the menu priced over $10.
This is a wonderful place to buy souvenirs of West Virginia. Check out the website listed below for current exhibits and events and further information.
There's so much to do and see in Parkersburg, I have a separate travel page for it. Check out my Parkersburg pages for tips on where to eat, things to do, etc. No matter what your interests, you can find something to enjoy in Parkersburg & the surrounding areas.
Have daughters? They will probably enjoy a tour of the Middleton Doll Factory, just across the river in Belpre, Ohio. Sons? They might enjoy a visit to the People's Mortuary Museum in Marietta, Ohio or a visit to the Oil and Gas Museum in Parkersburg. Interested in glass? Fenton Glass Factory is 10 miles north of Parkersburg--and 2007 is their 100th anniversary year so they will be having special events and sales. Into woodworking? Woodcrafters has a shop in Parkersburg. Like to cycle? North Bend rail trail begins/ends in Parkersburg.
If you like history--tour the Blennerhassett Island, mansion & museum. If you are into architecture, Parkersburg has several historic districts, and one of them, Julia-Ann Square, has the largest concentrated grouping of Italianate, Second Empire, and Queen Anne mansions in the entire state of West Virginia. Interested in ghost hunting? Parkersburg has active ghost hunting groups and a large number of haunted buildings/locales.
I've just scratched the surface...I could keep going but you have probably already quit reading! There are festivals galore: the Mid-Ohio Cultural Festival in June; West Virginia Interstate Fair & Exposition in July; the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival August 16-17, 2007; West Virginia Honey Festival on August 25-26, 2007; Harvest Moon Arts & Crafts Festival in September; and, of course, Holiday In The Park, Parkersburg's holiday season light display in City Park.
Then there's the shopping: Grand Central Mall with over 100 stores, theatre and food court; Coldwater Creek's clearance outlet, near the Mineral Wells area; the Middleton Doll factory outlet, Fenton glass factory outlet...and so on. There are lots of local merchants with boutiques and specialty shops that will well repay a visit too.
Despite its name, New River is considered to be one of the oldest rivers in the United States. In 1978 the US government protected 58 miles of the river and its surrounding area covering 70,000 acres. This is prime area for whitewater rafting, hiking, camping, fishing, biking and numerous other outdoor activities. From abandoned coal mines to prehistoric sites, the park covers a vast array of historical sites.
Fort Mulligan Civil War Site is a reminder that West Virginia saw much action during the War Between the States.
All that's left of what was once a very large "bombproof" fort is an impressive series of eatheworks. The Fort, as it exists today, was constructed from August through December 1863 by troops under the command of Colonel James A. Mulligan. He was from the Chicago, Illinois. Infantry, cavalry and artillery from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Illinois carried out the labor.
Easy walking trails lead the visitor around the ruins of Fort Mulligan and most of the site is accessible to wheelchairs. However, there are several areas that are inaccessible because of the steep terrain. Interpretative displays tell the story of both Union and Confederate troops who occupied this spot at various times, from 1861 - 1865.
The commanding views from the site of Fort Mulligan are reward enough for making a visit. The history of the things that happened here, and how they fit into the greater picture of the War Between the States, give cause for sober reflection.
The West Virginia State Capitol Building is the seat of the state legislature, the office of the governor, and other state government offices. The current building is actually the third structure on the site that has served as the state capitol. The first was built in 1885, but burned in 1921, and the second building burned in 1927. The current building was completed in 1932.
The state capitol building was designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed such buildings as the Flatiron Building in New York City, and the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. (Gilbert liked the design of the interior chamber so much that he used the same design for that of the United States Supreme Court Building). Designed in a combination of Colonial Revival and Italian Renaissance styles of architecture, the exterior of the building is constructed of buff Indiana limestone and two-thirds of the interior features various types of marble.
The capitol building contains 535,000 square feet (49,703 square meters) of interior space and has 33 rooms. The dome is 292 feet (89 meters) tall, making it the tallest structure in West Virginia. It is also five feet (two meters) taller than the dome of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The dome is covered with gilded 14-karat gold leaf laid over a base of copper and lead.
The Madonna of the Trail is a sculpture ten feet (three meters) high and weighing five tons (4,536 kilograms). The base is six feet (two meters) high and weighs 12 tons (10,886 kilograms).
In 1909, a group of women in Missouri formed a committee to locate the Old Santa Fe Trail in Missouri. The idea further developed into plans for a highway to be designated as the National Old Trails Road.
In 1911, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution established a national committee, known as the Old Trails Road Committee, whose purpose was to establish the National Old Trails Road as a National Memorial Highway.
In 1912, the National Old Trails Road Association was formed in order to assist the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in marking the National Old Trails Road.
In 1924, plans were formed to erect 12 large markers along the National Old Trails Road. The design by sculptor August Leimbach of Saint Louis was of a pioneer woman clasping her baby, while her young son clings to her skirts. The design was accepted by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and work began to place a sculpture in each of the 12 states through which the National Old Trails Road passes. Those states include Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
We added another U.S. Highpoint to our list of mountains we have been to. This one, as many in the Eastern U.S. you can drive to the top. The road is narrow , has lots of curves and takes a while, but is not too bad. The view from on top was awesome. There were several other groups of people on the top even as isolated as this mountain was!
Along with the mine itself, if you visit the coal mine in Beckley you get to visit the rest of the museum, which includes a rebuilt old mining town, some old farmhouses, and a youth museum. It was worth the trip. We spent half a day there.
We visited the Exhibition Coal mine in Beckely. I don't think I would have wanted to be a coal miner 100 or even 50 years ago!!! They led a very difficult life. We went on a tour of the underground mine, and the tour guide was a former miner who told us all about what life as a miner had been like. The miners were treated like slaves. They were allowed to leave, but they really could not because all of their wages was paid in "money" that could only be used in the mining town ( owned by the mine owner) for shelter, food and supplies, and they did not earn any more money than was necessary to get those minimal things. So basically, they were "free" in name only, but stuck there just like the slaves at the time in Virginia. Yet the 2 States split up.
One warning: don't take small children (maybe under 2?) into any mine. They tend to scream the entire tour.
The coal mine was interesting, plus you get to see the old buildings after the mine tour.
The New River Gorge bridge is the second highest in the U.S. I very much dislike driving over some bridges, and I was sort of afraid of this one, but it is really no big deal when you are driving over it. Why? You can't SEE how high you are from the top! We didn't realize how high up it is until we went to the Canyon Rim visitor center on the north side of the bridge. It looked really large from there . But it didn' t stop us from driving down to the bottom to look at the river! The road is a one-way road that has some very sharp turns. I am used to driving mountain roads, but I was worried about making the turns at a few places. We did make it down, went over the old bridge on the bottom , back up, and over the bridge again a second time to keep going .
Located about 13 miles (21 kilometers) east of Morgantown, Coopers Rock State Forest is one of the most popular attractions in the northern part of West Virginia. The 12,713-acre (5,145-hectare) park is bisected by Interstate 68, making for easy access. The area north of the interstate is leased by the West Virginia University Division of Forestry for research and teaching. South of the interstate is the main recreation area.
Legend has it that the park got its name from a cooper (barrel maker) who was a fugitive from the law and hid out near the Cheat River Gorge. There, he continued to make barrels and sell them to people in the local communities.
Coopers Rock State Forest offers many outdoor activities for visitors. Most people come to visit the several overlooks above the spectacular Cheat River Gorge. Other activities include picnicking, camping, hiking on the 50 miles (80 kilometers) of trails, cross-country skiing, and fishing in a six-acre (two-hectare) pond that is frequently stocked with trout.
During the Great Depression, between 1936 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed numerous structures in the park, such as a lodge, overlooks, and picnic shelters. Eleven of those structures are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Potomac River runs 383 miles from the West Virginia-Maryland border to the Chesapeake Bay south of Washington DC. Some of the major cities along the river include Harper's Ferry, WV, Washington, DC, Arlington, VA, and Alexandria, VA. The river forms part of the borders between Maryland and Washington, D.C. to the north and West Virginia and Virginia to the south. At the mouth of the Potomac, the river is 11 miles wide, between Point Lookout, Maryland and Smith Point, Virginia.
Numerous famous Americans were born and lived along the Potomac. Two of the most famous are George Washington and Robert E. Lee from Alexandria, VA. Of course, every President and Congressman has also resided along the river while serving in Washington DC!
Various methods have been used to navigate the river. The Patowmack Canal was envisioned and partially funded by George Washington to connect the area Georgetown with Cumberland, Maryland. Started in 1785, its five short canals were not completed until 1802, and they ceased operations in 1830. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal operated along the opposite bank of the Potomac in Maryland from 1850 to 1924 and it also connected Cumberland to Washington, D.C.
Today numerous parks line the Potomac. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park runs is 184.5 miles along the north side of the river. Also in Maryland, south of DC, you will find Oxon Hill Farm, Fort Foot National Park, Fort Washington Park, Piscataway National Park, and Point Lookout State Park. In Washington DC you will find Georgetown Waterfront Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Lady Bird Johnson Park, West Potomac Park, and East Potomac Park including Hains Point. In Virginia, you'll find Harpers Ferry National Park, Balls Bluff Battlefield, Great Falls Park, Jones Point Park, Fort Hunt National Park, Mount Vernon, Leesylvania State Park, and George Washington's Birthplace National Park.
Harper's Ferry, at the border of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia, and at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, was a strategic Civil War location with lots of history. Long before the war, Harper's ferry was established as a manufacturing and transportation center, as the US Armory and Arsenal was established in 1799. In the 1830s, this town hosted the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the Winchester & Potomac Railroad, and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.
Before the war, John Brown's raid was a key event in the history of Harper's Ferry as his band of abolitionists attempted to seize the weapons at the armory to fight a guerrilla war in the south to free slaves. Once the war started the Federal troops destroyed the Harper's Ferry armory and weapons manufacturing machinery.
During the war, the town changed hands 8 times, leaving much of the area in ruins. One key battle in September 1862 left 12,500 Union prisoners in the hands of Stonewall Jackson, allowing his forces to join the battle at nearby Antietam and prevent an even worse defeat.
Today Harper's Ferry National Park is a popular tourist destination. It offers a unique historic village with shops and restaurants alongside historic buildings and ruins, all in a beautiful scenic location.
Entrance fee for vehicles is $6, but you can park at the park headquarters outside of town and ride the bus. Each time I have visited, there was no parking town, so the bus is recommended. The battlefields are located outside of the central, historic town and have plenty of parking.
In July 1859 John Brown, two of his sons, and others met in Maryland about seven miles from Harpers Ferry to begin creating an army and drafting plans to attack Harpers Ferry. They intended to seize the 100,000 rifles at he armory, then use them to arm lsaves throughout Virginia. On October 16, 1859, Brown and his 21-man "Provisional Army of the United States" took over the US Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry in an effort to create an uprising among the slaves. Militia units and federal troops responded from surrounding areas, some led by future Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and JEB Stuart. For the next two days several of John Brown's raiders along with numerous townspeople were killed as the raiders were gradually pushed from the Armory and Arsenal into the small firehouse in the far corner of town. Finally, on the morning of October 18th, twelve US Marines broke down the door of the Armory's firehouse, capturing Brown and the remaining raiders. In all, 17 people died including 10 of Brown's men.
The 45-minute trial took place on November 2nd 1856, as Brown was charged with murder, conspiring slaves to rebel, and treason against the state of Virginia. He was sentenced to a public execution that took place on December 2nd, and was attending by VMI cadets led by Major Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. John Wilkes Booth also witnessed the execution.
It is said that the John Brown's failed raid raised tensions between the North and South the led to secession and the American Civil War.
The Shenandoah River runs 150 miles through western Virginia from Port Republic into the Potomac at Harpers Ferry. The lowest 20 miles of the river are in West Virginia, while the rest of the river and its tributaries flow through Virginia. Around Front Royal, the Shenandoah is famous for Canoeing and the city of Front Royal was named by the Virginia legislature as the Canoeing Capital of Virginia.
The Shenandoah River Valley is bound to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians, the town of Roanoke in the south and Harpers Ferry in the north. Some of the key cities in the valley include Staunton, Harrisonburg, Winchester, Lexington, Waynesboro, and Front Royal.
During the Civil War the Shenandoah Valley a key agricultural region for the Confederacy was used as an attack route for Confederate raids on Maryland, Washington and Pennsylvania; because of this strategic importance it was the scene of three major campaigns.
Over half of the land int he valley is used for farming and ranching. This is Virginia's top livestock region, as is apparent by the huge horse farms you'll see when driving through the area.
US 340 & Union St., Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, 25425, United States
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
This was a gem of a motel but it was a bit tough to locate. The motel was off the I-79 exit but...more
80 Old Nicholette Road, I-77, Exit 170, Mineral Wells, West Virginia, 26150, United States
Good for: Couples