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The Mountain State™
West Virginia is located in the Appalachia / Upland South region of the United States. West Virginia broke away from Virginia during the American Civil War and was admitted to the Union as a separate state on June 20, 1863 (an anniversary now celebrated as West Virginia Day in the state). It is one of only two states formed during the American Civil War (along with Nevada) and is the only state to form by seceding from a Confederate state.
West Virginia is one of the Border States. The Census Bureau considers West Virginia part of the South because most of the state is below the Mason-Dixon Line, though its northern panhandle extends adjacent to Pennsylvania and Ohio with Weirton on a parallel with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The unique position of West Virginia means that it is included in a wide variety of geographical regions (though often only marginally), such as the Upper South, the Upland South, the Southeastern United States, the Southern United States, the Mid-Atlantic, Appalachia and even the Midwestern United States and Northeastern United States. Notably, it is the only state which entirely lies within the area served by the Appalachian Regional Commission, which is a common definition of "Appalachia". While West Virginians recognize that their state is part of Appalachia, many do not welcome the term for purposes of self-identification. The state's Northern Panhandle, and North-Central region feel an affinity for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Also, those in the Eastern Panhandle feel a connection with the Washington, D.C. suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, and southern West Virginians often consider themselves Southerners. Finally, the towns and farms along the mid-Ohio River have an appearance and culture somewhat resembling the Midwest. The capital and largest city is Charleston.
The state is noted for its great natural beauty, its historically significant logging and coal mining industries, and its labor history. It is also well known as a tourist destination for those people interested in outdoor activities such as skiing, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, fishing, hiking, and hunting.
West Virginia is bordered by Pennsylvania to the north; by Ohio to the north and west; by Kentucky to the west; by Maryland to the north and east; and by Virginia to the east and south. The Ohio and Potomac rivers form parts of the boundaries.
West Virginia is the only state in the nation located entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range, and in which all areas are mountainous; for this reason it is nicknamed The Mountain State. About 75% of the state is within the Cumberland Plateau and Allegheny Plateau regions. Though the relief is not high, the plateau region is extremely rugged in most areas.
On the eastern state line with Virginia, high peaks in the Monongahela National Forest region give rise to an island of colder climate and ecosystems similar to those of northern New England and eastern Canada. The highest point in the state is atop Spruce Knob, which at 4,863 feet (1,482 m) is covered in a boreal forest of dense spruce trees at altitudes above 4,000 feet (1,220 m). Spruce Knob lies within the Monongahela National Forest and is a part of the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. A total of six wilderness areas can also be found within the forest. Outside the forest to the south, the New River Gorge is a 1,000-foot (304 m) deep canyon carved by the New River. The National Park Service manages a portion of the gorge and river that has been designated as the New River Gorge National River, one of only 15 rivers in the U.S. with this level of protection.
Other areas under protection and management include:
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- Bluestone National Scenic River
- Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
- Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
- Gauley River National Recreation Area
- George Washington National Forest
- Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
- Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge
The native vegetation for most of the state was originally mixed hardwood forest of oak, chestnut, maple, beech, and white pine, with willow and American sycamore along the state's waterways. Many of the areas are rich in biodiversity and scenic beauty, a fact that is appreciated by native West Virginians, who refer to their home as Almost Heaven.
The underlying rock strata are sandstones, shales, bituminous coal beds, and limestones laid down in a near shore environment from sediments derived from mountains to the east, in a shallow inland sea on the west. Some beds illustrate a coastal swamp environment, some river delta, some shallow water. Sea level rose and fell many times during the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian eras, giving a variety of rock strata. The Appalachian Mountains are some of the oldest on earth, having formed over 300 million years ago.
The climate of West Virginia borders on a humid subtropical climate in the lower elevations of the extreme southwestern part of the state (including Huntington) and parts of the Eastern Panhandle east of the Appalachians with hot, humid summers and milder winters. The rest of the state has a humid continental climate with warm to hot, humid summers and cold winters, increasing in severity with elevation.
The state has a rich, lush beauty reflecting its temperate topography. Tourist sites include the New River Gorge Bridge, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and many state parks. The Greenbrier hotel and resort, originally built in 1778, has long been considered a premier hotel frequented by numerous world leaders and U.S. Presidents over the years. West Virginia is also home to the Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
A common story told about West Virginia is the folktale about how it got the nickname "West, By God, Virginia". According to the legend, a West Virginia native who was being inducted into the US Army during the First World War (some versions make it as early as the Spanish-American War), was repeatedly asked by his induction officer, "What part of Virginia?" And the soldier, finally getting fed up with the confusion, said "Not Virginia! West Virginia! West, by God, Virginia!". This story, whether true or not, has entered American folklore, and it is not unusual to hear not only West Virginians themselves, but other Americans, refer to the state as "West, By God, Virginia";, or often as "West By-God", or sometimes simply as "By-God". Many West Virginians, when traveling outside the state, or when abroad, enjoy paying homage to the legend by referring to their home state in this manner.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
Photos courtesy of West Virginia Division of Tourism