“Country roads, take me home…to the place I belong.”
Most Americans recognize and sing along when they hear the seminal American anthem that pays homage to the statuesque mountain ranges and deep, mysterious hollers of the great state of West Virginia. One wonders if the dear departed John Denver knew the lasting impact the words to that simple song would leave imprinted upon the psyche of the collective American consciousness.
Known for the beauty of its mountain ranges and rolling hills as well as its logging industry, West Virginia boasts the distinction of being the only state to be formed by separating from a Confederate state, Virginia.
Long a destination for hikers, climbers, and even skiers, the home of the Mountaineers contains multitudes for visitors of all stripes, and below are some can’t miss sites in the Mountain State of West Virginia:
Bluestone National Scenic River: Look no further for the rugged representation of the backcountry side of West Virginia than this national scenic river site. The Bluestone River and the ancient canyon it has carved throughout the millennia are as rich and scenic as one will find anywhere in the Appalachian Mountain chain. Named for its blue limestone stream bed, this mighty river has carved an over one thousand foot deep gorge where for hundreds of years first native tribes and later early settlers lived and thrived. Over a thousand species of plants grow in the surrounding habitats and its rich and diverse aquatic, mammalian and amphibian wildlife make this national scenic river area a must-visit for nature lovers. Hike, bird, fish, swim, or simply spend a few minutes of quiet contemplation in a place still as close to those early primitive days of North America as one is likely to find in the 21st century.
New River Gorge National Park And Preserve: A gorge of a different color can be found not far from Bluestone at this National Park and Preserve! The ironically named New River is actually one of the oldest rivers on the continent. The rushing white water river and the gorge it carved out make up the 73,000 acres of land of this spectacular national treasure.
Whether one chooses to hike, bike, or chance the rapids of the New River, visitors will be gifted with stunning vistas at every turn and unique local wildlife everywhere one looks! Hunting, fishing, canoeing, birding, camping, and rock climbing are other popular activities.
Gauley River National Recreation Area: Last, but certainly not least, in the great river destinations of West Virginia is this national recreation area. The truly brave at heart flock by the thousands yearly to test their will, skill, and nerve against the surging white rapids of the Gauley River preserved in this National Park. Over 25 miles of pulsing Gauley River combined with the six miles of the Meadow River rush through picturesque gorges and valleys with a wide mix of natural and cultural touchstones. The Gauley River contains several class 5 rapids, making it one of the most challenging white water rivers east of the Mississippi; and its scenery, inaccessibility, and the size and intensity of its rapids make it a coveted spot for expert wave runners. Likewise, its extremes in topography, elevation and microclimate make for an unmatched diversity of plant life. All of these unique features combined make this national recreation area a must-visit in southern West Virginia!