West Virginia Travel Regions
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|West Virginia: Mountaineer Country: Articles|
We've Got It Covered
Of West Virginia's 17 intact 19th-century covered bridges, almost half are in Mountaineer Country. Generally patterned after German, Swiss and Austrian designs, these bridges were covered to protect their all-wood, hand-hewn supporting truss systems. An integral part of West Virginia's early turnpike system, some were strategic prizes during the Civil War.
One is nationally famous. The 285-foot-long Philippi Bridge on US 119/250 in Barbour County, the work of master builder Lemuel Chenoweth and his brother Eli in 1852, is the only structure of its kind that is still part of a federal highway. In 1861, the bridge was the site of the first land battle of the Civil War.
Beside it, the Barbour County Historical Museum contains information about the bridge and the bloodless but decisive struggle won by Union General B.F. Kelley. Each June, the Blue and Gray Reunion re-enacts the battle. The bridge and the town's historic district are part of the Civil War Discovery Trail.
South of Philippi on County Road 36, the Buckhannon River Bridge at Carrollton still serves its nearby communities. Bridge fans will also want to seek out Dents Run Bridge near Morgantown and the Buffalo Creek Bridge near Barrackville, within easy access of I-79. In Harrison County, you'll find the Simpson Creek Bridge north of Bridgeport and Fletcher Covered Bridge near Wolf Summit. Doddridge County holds Center Point Bridge. In Wetzel County, Fish Creek Covered Bridge is near the town of Hundred.
Near Rowlesburg in Preston County, visit the Tray Run Viaduct, constructed prior to 1872. Built for a single railroad track, the curved viaduct had viewing platforms on each side for passengers. This viaduct is pictured on the reverse side of West Virginia's state seal.
Mountaineer Balloon Festival
Morgantown, the urban nucleus of Mountaineer Country, got an early start. Its founders, the Morgans, are credited as the first Europeans to settle western Virginia. By 1785, the town was chartered and functioning as a county seat.
Today, Morgantown is best known as the home of West Virginia University. In the fall, the whole state snaps to attention when the WVU Mountaineers play at home in 70,000-seat Mountaineer Field. In winter, the WVU Coliseum packs in basketball fans.
The university is the hub of a large arts community as well. Concerts, exhibitions and theater enliven the Creative Arts Center. Across the street, Core Arboretum, a 70-acre botanical park, bursts out in bluebells, trillium, and dwarf larkspur each spring.
Several on-campus museums are open to visitors, including the Cook-Hayman Pharmacy Museum and the Mineral and Energy Museum. And those quiet cars moving on elevated tracks around town belong to the award-winning, environment-friendly Personal Rapid Transit System. It has logged over 17 million passenger miles without an accident since it began running in 1975.
High Street is the center of most activity downtown and the site of impressive historical structures, many designed by one prolific architect, Elmer Jacobs. Be sure to stop at the Old Stone House, a tiny structure on Chestnut Street whose past included turns as a tavern, tannery, church and home. Now it is a craft and gift shop.
The college town supports plenty of boutiques, bookstores, galleries, pubs and bistros, including the state's first brewpub, where gleaming copper vats of several tasty brews complement noteworthy food. Gracious dining, along with a collection of fine shops, can also be found at the renovated Seneca Center on Beechurst Avenue, a former glass factory that produced crystal stemware for the Kennedy White House. If you want to see glass making and shop an outlet store for handmade creations, visit Gentile Glass Company in nearby Star City.
Champs on the Cheat
Lakeview Resort, overlooking jewel-like Cheat Lake, has hosted the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead at its championship golf courses. Others favor it for indoor and outdoor swimming, tennis and first-class accommodations.
Just east of Morgantown, Coopers Rock State Forest sprawls over 12,000 acres in two counties. It is widely known for its breathtaking 1,200-foot overlook of the Cheat River. The forest, which embraces a section of the Allegheny Trail, offers camping, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, rock climbing and cross-country skiing.
A Fair Mountain
South of Morgantown, the town of Fairmont is Marion County's seat. Originally called Middletown because of its location between Morgantown and Clarksburg, it was renamed in 1843 for the "fair mountain" where the settlement was established. The coming of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the 1850s made it a center of commerce, and coal clinched its boomtown character.
In 1865, one of West Virginia's first teacher training schools was established here; it grew into Fairmont State College, which maintains a red-roofed one-room school museum to mark its heritage.
Fairmont's colonial roots are celebrated at Pricketts Fort State Park, just north of town, where interpreters in period costumes go about the tasks of daily frontier life as visitors watch and sometimes participate. Another good place to discover history is the Marion County Museum, next to Fairmont's courthouse. Furnishings and artifacts in each room represent different eras in US history.
Ten miles northwest on US Route 250, visit the Mannington Round Barn, West Virginia's only restored round barn; it now houses an early 20th-century farm exhibit. Nearby, the West Augusta Historical Society Museum contains three floors of Civil War-era Americana, from brass ox horn covers to an 1886 music box.
Life in the Fast Lane
On Friday and Saturday evenings year-round, stock cars scream around the I-79 Raceway at Exit 125 and dragsters run the strip at the Fairmont Dragway. The National Racing Association-sanctioned facility is at Exit 132 off I-79.
If you'd rather watch a rushing river, the huge rocks at Valley Falls make an ideal perch for a spectacular view. Just off WV Route 310 south of Fairmont, the picturesque 12- and 18-foot falls of the Tygart River are the centerpiece of a popular 1,145-acre day-use state park with picnicking, playgrounds and 13 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Feast for the Senses
South of Fairmont is Clarksburg, the birthplace of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and the adopted home of thousands of immigrant laborers who built the architectural feast of Italianate and Renaissance-style structures in this town. You'll find monuments to both the immigrants and the Civil War general on the plaza of the Harrison County Courthouse.
The feasting is not all visual; some of the state's best food is to be found in this area, particularly during Clarksburg's annual celebration of Italian heritage.
The Waldomore, an 1839 mansion next-door to the library, is more than a pretty place: it holds the West Virginia History and Genealogical Collection, the Guy W. Tetrick collection of family histories and other genealogical material. The 1807 Stealey-Goff-Vance House is home to the Harrison County Historical Society Museum, with a collection of maps, artifacts and more genealogy records.
At nearby Fort New Salem, a living-history center affiliated with Salem-Teikyo University, visitors of all ages get hands-on experience in spinning, weaving, paper-marbling, candle-dipping, basket-weaving and more.
South of Clarksburg near West Milford, Watters Smith Memorial State Park offers more history with a reconstructed farmstead and museum. You can also enjoy the park's pool, playground, trails and picnic areas.
Crafts and Antiques
Bridgeport, at the busy junction of US 50 and I-79, has been a trading post since 1764. Today it's a favorite stop for food, fuel, shopping and a comfortable place to sleep. Take your pick from more than 40 restaurants, a 100-store mall and three shopping centers. Further east on US 50, more shops offer antiques, glass and collectibles. Craft lovers will find a large artisan cooperative, West Virginia Mountain Products, near Exit 115 off I-79.
When the B&O Railroad came through Grafton in 1856, the little town suddenly found itself an important rail center at the junction of lines extending to Wheeling and Parkersburg - a prize coveted by both Union and Confederate armies.
The National Cemetery at Grafton is the burial place of Private Bailey Brown, first Union soldier killed by Confederate forces, along with 1,251 others from both sides. It is part of the Civil War Discovery Trail.
Native Anna Jarvis made Grafton famous by organizing the first Mother's Day celebration here in 1908 at Andrews Methodist Church. The handsome church and Jarvis's homeplace, which also served as headquarters for Union General McLellan, are both open to the public.
Family boaters, water skiers, swimmers and fishermen love Tygart Lake State Park, where a 1930s dam created an 11-mile-long lake. The park also features a lakeside lodge, cabins, campsites, hiking trails and nature programs.
Preston County, in the northeast corner of Mountaineer Country, offers a peaceful rural landscape of farmland, mountains and villages.
One of the villages, Arthurdale, was the first of some 100 resettlement communities established during Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the town retains its Depression-era community spirit and guards its heritage proudly. A driving-tour brochure of all 165 original homes is available at the Arthurdale visitors center.
Or travel a few miles east, to Kingwood, and leave the driving to Conductor Bob of the West Virginia Northern Railroad, a restored freight railroad that runs between Kingwood and Tunnelton. Passing through beautiful countryside and past working and abandoned coalmines, the train runs weekends spring through September and daily during the Preston County Buckwheat Festival and in October.
One of West Virginia's fragile gems, Cathedral State Park is the last remnant of mixed virgin timber in the state and one of the most accessible stands of old-growth forest in North America. A National Historical Landmark, the 132-acre park on US Route 50 near Aurora is an excellent place for a contemplative walk in any season.
You'll find other beautiful parks and outdoor recreation areas in Mountaineer Country. Audra State Park, bordered by Middle Fork River near US Route 250, offers camping, swimming, and climbing on the river's mammoth rocks in more than 300 acres of wooded countryside. Two wildlife management areas, Pleasant Creek and Teter Creek, provide thousands of acres for fishing, hunting, camping, boating and other recreational activities.
Whitewater and Wheels
Whitewater enthusiasts make annual pilgrimages to Mountaineer Country's tumbling Cheat and Tygart rivers. During "Cheat Season" in the spring, rafters and kayakers ride Class IV and V rapids through the Cheat River canyon. In summer and fall, gentler Class II and III family rides float through the Cheat Narrows. Different sections of the Tygart can thrill or relax, depending upon your tastes. Professional outfitters in the area offer day trips and combination packages.
Mountain bikers and horseback riders traveling east on the 72-mile North Bend Rail Trail will traverse lightly-populated, wooded Doddridge County on their way to the Wolf Summit terminus of the trail, near Clarksburg. The 51-mile Caperton Trail extends from Fairmont through Morgantown to the Pennsylvania border.
Home in the Hills
The rugged terrain that challenged pioneers now sets the stage for rock climbers, mountain bikers, kayakers and rafters - a stage that dazzles the eye in every direction from land, lake or air.
Mountaineer Country is also an ethnic melting pot, a center of learning, a treasury of history and a friendly home-away-from-home. Come see for yourself. And come back soon.