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West Virginia: The Mountain State Offers a Bit of Everything

West Virginia can be veritably considered a crossroads of America. No other state has so many different regional leanings and influences. At the same time southern, Midwestern, and Appalachian could be words to describe a certain part of the West Virginian population. Visitors can experience this great and diverse array of cultures and ways of life within the boundaries of a single state. This, and the astounding natural beauty make West Virginia a very attractive place to visit.

West Virginia bears its nickname for a reason. The Mountain State is entirely placed upon the Appalachian Mountain range and does in fact not have any extensive lowland or prairie-like region. Within the Appalachians, the Cumberland and Allegheny Plateaus make up most of the West Virginian territory. However, the highest point of the state, Spruce Knob, lies at only 4,863 feet.

Generally, West Virginians live in a region with a humid subtropical climate. This is mainly true for the lower elevations that witness hot and humid summers and mild winters. In the eastern part of the state, especially around the high peaks of the Monongahela National Forest, temperatures are somewhat colder and resemble those of more northern regions. The average temperatures lie in the 30s and 40s in winter and in the high 60s and 70s in summer. Precipitation is relatively high, which makes the higher elevations of West Virginia a good destination for skiing and other weekend winter sports.

History

For thousands of years, West Virginia was a prime hunting ground for various Native American tribes. Mound builder cultures settled the area and have left the earthen mounds for todayís visitors to marvel. In the late 17th century, European settlers were slowly arriving, who frequently clashed with the native tribes on the hunt. The Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774 marked a turning point, when a crushing blow was delivered to Shawnee resistance. West Virginia came into existence as an independent state during the Civil War when seceding from Virginia, becoming a border state. Throughout the war, the state was mostly controlled by Union forces. Today, the population is mostly centered in the northern and western regions. American, German, and Irish are the most common ancestries within the predominantly white population.

National Parks and Natural Areas

West Virginia houses many great parks and extensive naturally protected areas. One of the most notable is certainly the Monongahela National Forest. For almost 90 years it has been a national forest. Dozens of tree species cover the hills partly steep slopes, for example of the Spruce Knob and Seneca Rocks area. Since the MNF, as it is shortly referred to, has an extensive backwoods road and trail system, it invites for a great many activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and horse riding. Many campgrounds are available for accommodation.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, commonly known just as the Appalachian Trail, runs on its long and winding course from Maine to Georgia also through West Virginia. Many of the hikers are so-called thru-hikers, trying to master the entire 2,100 miles of the trail at a time.

Eastern Panhandle

At the northeastern tip of the state around the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal one can visit a national historic park. Here, one can take a ride on the typical mule-powered boats which is a true experience, especially for families with children. The many historic structures of the region are worth a visit as well. Within an hourís ride from the nationís capital, the Eastern Panhandle is also very popular for its great resorts which can be found in and near Hedgesville, Berkeley Springs, Martinsburg, or Charles Town.

Potomac Highlands

Along the eastern border of the state, the highlands are inviting for exploration both summers and winters. Whether on skis, on foot, or by bike, the scenic parks and lodges make a beautiful framing for outdoor activities, and the century-old spas provide refreshments along the way.

Mountaineer Country

The north-central area of the state, bordering with the Midwestern states, has long been a centre of mining, logging, and railroad work. West Virginia University is located in this area, in Morgantown. Many other colleges, universities and technical school can also be found here. The region, which especially in summer is also full of joyful visitors, is a veritable blend of cultures, of young and old, traditional and new.

Newriver Region

This area in southeastern West Virginia abounds with natural resources that have long attracted explorers, settlers, and visitors. The New River and Greenbrier Valleys is a major destination for whitewater sports as well as horseback riding, hiking, and biking. Embedded in the beautiful natural surroundings are small cultural enclaves like Tamarack and Lewisburg. These towns that boast a simple, rural charm, house a variety of fine arts galleries and shops.

Mountain Lakes Region

The mountain lakes are located in central West Virginia and live up to their name. Countless lakes, rivers, and streams make the area a natural destination for water sports enthusiasts. Much of Civil War history was set in the heartland of West Virginia, and thus one is inclined to come across many monuments and other things reminding of this crucial era. They include Stonewall Jackson's boyhood home as well as Bulltown and Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park.

Metro Region

The state capital Charleston is located in the south-central or metro region. This densely populated area extends along some 60 miles from Charleston to Huntington, an important railroad and shipping port. The region is characterized by the two major rivers flowing through, as well as the urban environment. Exquisite restaurants, a wide array of excellent accommodation, great shopping make for a thrilling stay. But, as everywhere in West Virginia, the metropolitan region is embedded in a natural landscape of green hills which provides myriads of getaways within a short range.

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