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USA, West Virginia, Tucker County, Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center, view of shifting light over Canaan Valley from high atop Bald Knob Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher 1-2-444-4West Virginia's Canaan Valley

by

Thomas R. & Deborah A. Fletcher

            “Truly unique” and “very true,” phrases heard many times on the 24-hour cable news shows, seem to have infected travel coverage in some circles. Something is either true or it isn’t, it is never “very true.”  The same goes for unique, something either is or it isn’t, no "very" needed. We’ll spare you the superlatives and simply describe West Virginia’s Canaan Valley. Sitting at an average elevation of 3200', this high, unexpected valley is found amid the state’s steepest mountains in Tucker County. Fifteen miles long and up to five miles wide, ringed by mountains reaching heights towering far above 4,000’, this is the highest valley of its size east of the Rocky Mountains . 

    Sunrise over Canaan Valley, Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher DS-05-0819        Though resident Bill Thomas complains about the “terrible” July heat, most people find a high of 86 degrees to be quite nice, especially those familiar with the stifling heat of the city—any city. This naturally beautiful place creates its own weather system; as the valley air cools at night to saturation, a dense fog forms that doesn’t burn away until mid-morning on most summer days. Sunrise finds the valley filled with fog. The dense fog takes on the fluid look of water, transforming the valley’s appearance into that of a vast mountain lake.

            This rare natural treasure high in Tucker County’s steep, forested mountains features some nationally significant wetlands, recognized by the setting aside of the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s 500th National Wildlife Refuge,  The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Portions of the valley were first set aside in 1974 as a National Natural Landmark These landmarks form a diverse group of places that illustrate the natural history of the US. On August 11, 1994 the US Fish & Wildlife Service purchased the land that would become Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was established to preserve the ecological diversity of the valley. The high altitude, cool climate and moist soil combine to form an ecosystem supporting a host of plant species more typically found much further north. Drained by the Blackwater River, Canaan Valley contains 8,400 acres of wetlands, the largest freshwater wetlands area in the Appalachians, and West Virginia’s most important wetland.

            Canaan Valley is home to more than 580 species of plants, many deposited here with the last Ice Age. Trapped in the high, wide valley, they missed their ride on the retreating glaciers back to Canada. Nearly twenty percent of these (109 of the 580 species) are listed as typically found in more northern climates. Twenty-five species are listed as rare in West Virginia (including Northeastern Lady Fern, Nannyberry, and Jacob’s Ladder). Wet meadows, alder thickets, and swamp forest make up much of the valley floor and provide home to 290 species of fauna (birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes), including the threatened Cheat Mountain Salamander and the endangered Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel.—both listed on the Endangered Species list.  Development of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge emphasizes wildlife management, environmental education, and wildlife recreation. As tourism has taken hold in the valley; related retail, recreational, and service jobs have largely replaced timbering and farming that once provided the livelihoods of area residents.

            Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center makes an excellent place to stay and explore the valley’s many recreational opportunities. Managed by US Hotel & Resort Management,  the resort state park features a 250-room lodge, 34 campsites, 23 cabins, a full-service ski area, dining and conference center, an 18-hole championship golf course, paintball arena, fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, 18 miles of trails for hiking or biking. The surrounding Monongahela National Forest features an additional 150 miles of marked trails. Mountain bike and helmet rentals are available at the resort. Cyclists can now hitch a ride to the top of the mountain via the chairlift and bike cradle. Sight-seers enjoy riding the chairlift for the scenic views of the mountains and valley. This AAA-Three Diamond property is a great place to stay and enjoy the great outdoors in all four seasons. 

            The motel-style rooms are clean and comfortable—with in-room coffee pots, a very important amenity and one of the first things we look for in our lodging. All in all, Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center is located in a natural paradise and represents one of the most reasonable vacation bargains to be found in the US.

            A hike to the top of Bald Knob puts everything in perspective. We tookWild Blueberries atop Bald Knob Canaan Valley Resort State Park DS-05-0802 the first morning trip up the chair-lift to the top of the mountain to begin our hike. From the chairlift drop-off it is approximately 1.5 miles to the peak of Bald Knob. The knob stands as a sentry overlooking the vast valley, offering some of the best valley views.  We wanted to be early, to catch the best morning light as the morning sun burned off the fog, and to have some time alone at the peak We expected a great view, but didn’t expect to find an abundance of ripe blueberries. The bushes covering Bald Knob were loaded and we made full use of this natural snack food loaded with antioxidants. We could have easily filled a five-gallon bucket with the delicious berries.

            For guests who want to stretch beyond the resort’s 6015 acres, West Virginia has several other spectacular attractions within a short drive from the resort including Blackwater Falls State Park, Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, whitewater rafting on the Cheat River, Dolly Sods, and Otter Creek Wildernesses.  

 

If You Go:

Sunrise over Canaan Valley, Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher  DS-05-0819

Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center

230 Main Lodge Road

Davis , WV 26260

Phone: 800-622-4121

http://www.canaanresort.com/ 

Sunrise over Canaan Valley, Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher  DS-05-0824

West Virginia Tourism  

2101 Washington St. E.

Charleston, WV 25305-0312

Phone: 800-CALL-WVA

(304) 558-2200

Fax: (304) 558-0108

Website: www.westvirginia.com 

Sunrise over Canaan Valley, Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher  DS-05-0820Sunrise, Canaan Valley, Tucker County, West Virginia Sunrise over Canaan Valley, Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher  DS-05-0826 Misty morning in Canaan Valley.  3,190' high, the largest and highest valley east of the Rocky Mountains

 

Shifting light over Canaan Valley, viewed from Bald Knob, Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher  1-2-444-6

Shifting light over Canaan Valley, viewed from Bald Knob

 

Deborah taling in the view of shifting light over Canaan Valley, viewed from Bald Knob, Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher  1-2-444-1Taking in the view, Bald Knob  

 

Deborah taling in the view of shifting light over Canaan Valley, viewed from Bald Knob, Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher 1-2-444-10Getting a drink of water, high atop Bald Knob overlooking Canaan Valley Canaan Valley misty sunrise Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher DS-05-0823Canaan Valley misty sunrise Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge   
Seneca Rocks Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher 1-2-56-19  Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area   Coal Run, Otter Creek Wilderness, Copyright Thomas R. Fletcher 1-2-152-11  Otter Creek Wilderness  

 

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