Discover the History and Mystery of WV State Parks

West Virginia state parks and forests are best known for their natural beauty, but there’s also a great deal of history and mystery associated with these places. Are you familiar with the colorful background of these parks?

Coopers Rock State Forest is named for Coopers Rock, a series of sandstone cliffs high above the beautiful Cheat River Gorge. Legend has it that a fugitive once hid out here. A cooper by trade, he continued to make and sell barrels from his mountain hideout. While no evidence remains of this mysterious cooper, the forest is home to one fascinating historical attraction dating back to the 1800s. The Henry Clay Furnace—the first steam-powered blast furnace in western Virginia—can be accessed via the Clay Run Trail.

Connected to North Bend State Park, the 72-mile-long North Bend Rail Trail is a favorite destination for family bike rides. Several sites along the rail trail hold their share of history. A marker by the Bonds Creek Tunnel (No. 13) recounts an incident in 1956 during which a Baltimore & Ohio passenger train wrecked into the creek, killing the engineer and fireman and injuring dozens more. Then there’s the infamous Silver Run Tunnel (No. 19), said to be haunted by a woman in white known as the Ghost of the Silver Run. (Regardless of whether you believe in ghosts, it’s recommended that you use a flashlight or headlamp in the tunnels!)

Known as the country’s first spa, the warm spring water of Berkeley Springs State Park was discovered by Native Americans who traveled from as far away as Canada to soak in the healing mineral waters. When word spread among settlers, a young George Washington became a repeat visitor. Today visitors can view a stone bath tub modeled after the one Washington soaked in before he became the country’s first president.

Hikers and mountain bikers navigating the winding series of trails at Kanawha State Forest may notice pockets of cold air emanating from long-abandoned coal mines deep in the hillside. One of these mines can be seen along the CCC Snipe Trail. When the Civilian Conservation Corps sealed the mine in 1941, they found moonshine mash barrels that had been abandoned by bootleggers. Then there’s the mine on the Kevin Dials Bat Trail. Its entrance is protected with a special gate so that bats—some of them endangered or threatened species—can fly in and out. Interpretive signs line the trail detailing facts about the various bat species that reside here in Kanawha State Forest.

At Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, the 18th century mansion of Irish aristocrats Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett is renowned for its beauty and elegance, but it harbors a darker element. In 1805 the Blennerhassetts allowed the estate to serve as headquarters for the Aaron Burr military expedition to the Southwest, which became linked to a treasonous plot to create a new country independent of the United States. The Blennerhassetts fled when Burr’s scheme collapsed.

What other mysteries and historical attractions have you encountered at West Virginia state parks and forests? Tag #WVStateParks and share your photos on social media. Start planning your Almost Heaven getaway today!

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