We Are the Mountain StateAugust 23, 2011
West Virginia has a very diverse topography. The state is located within the Appalachian Mountain Range. At the lowest point it is barely 240 feet above sea level. These lower areas are located on the very eastern and western edges of the state near the major rivers, the Ohio and the Potomac.
Here in the middle, we have mountains, and lots of them. The average elevation of West Virginia is around 1,500 feet. That is the highest average elevation of any state east of the Mississippi River. And that elevation is responsible for a lot of the outdoor activities we are known for.
Fayetteville is Where the Mountains Begin
Here in the New River Gorge, we are at the foot of the mountains. In Fayetteville, the elevation is just under 1,900 feet, but just to the east the elevation jumps to around 3,000 feet on some knobs in Fayette County.
Fayetteville is on the western edge of the Allegheny Plateau, and most of the mountains here are created by river or stream valleys, like the New and the Gauley Rivers. Just 15 miles from Fayetteville in Gauley Bridge, the elevation is about 1,000 feet lower.
Ridge and Valley Region
Only about one third of the state is in the Allegheny Ridge and Valley Region, and this is where the real mountains are. Spruce Knob is the highest point in the state with an elevation of 4,863 feet, and a great portion of the mountains of this area are at least 4,000 feet in elevation.
That means that some of these mountains have climates and ecosystems similar to those found nowhere south of Canada.
Because of the ruggedness of these mountains, West Virginia was slow to be inhabited by settlers. Even Indian tribes found most of WV difficult to live in and those that did reside here did so on the lower western side.
Most Indian activity was from tribes in neighboring states using it as a summer hunting ground area. Tribes from Ohio, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania and Kentucky would all make the journey to West Virginia to take advantage of its remote areas and bountiful game.
Even settlers making their way westward found it much easier to go out of their way to the north or the south of WV rather than try and navigate through its steep terrain. Morgan Morgan is credited with being the first settler in West Virginia in 1731, but he stopped short of the mountains in what is present day Berkeley County.
Mountains Made the People and the State
The people who eventually settled here were rugged, hard-working folks who scratched out a living from the abundant natural resources of the state. Many of the descendents of those folks are still here and making a living off those natural resources. West Virginia is defined by its mountains and the mountains have made it what it is today.
What do you think of our mountains?