Economy of West Virginia

Some machines are so big and have so many moving parts, they are nearly impossible to comprehend. The economy is one such machine. Whether you’re a traveler, a budding entrepreneur, or you’ve lived in a particular region all your life, it never hurts to have a better understanding of what drives a particular economy take a vacation to the area. Like most parts of the United States, West Virginia has a big economy. These are the things you should know before you visit.

If West Virginia were recognized as a country instead of a state, it would fit snugly in between Iraq and Croatia. In 2009 it’s GDP was appraised at $63.34 billion. While this is an enormous number on its own, it’s worth noting that this figure was provided in the short period following the beginning of the 2008 recession. West Virginia may be a small state, but its growth potential is speeding up: in fact, in 2014 it grew at a rate of 5.1 percent, the fastest in the U.S. just behind Wyoming, North Dakota and Texas.

A typical regional product manufacturer might focus on chemicals, biotech, and energy. Other popular industries include aerospace, healthcare, automotive, education, telecommunication, manufacturing, and many more. West Virginia is also home to a great variety of national treasures, including historic sites and natural geographical splendor. This has led to a booming tourism industry.

West Virginia prides itself on looking to the future, and exports energy that goes unused by state residents. 15 percent of the nation’s fossil fuel production comes from West Virginia, but that hasn’t stopped us from looking to cleaner energy alternatives. Natural gas is a growing industry. Wind energy has been growing since the first West Virginia wind turbines were constructed in 2002, and progress on harnessing hydroelectric energy is ongoing.

West Virginia is also proud to support the efforts of smaller local farmers over bigger commercial ventures. Most farms are family owned and operated. Because West Virginia is a mountainous region, farming livestock is preferable to maintaining crop yields year by year.

The terrain has also put up a roadblock for a lot of “too big to fail” banks that operate elsewhere in the United States. If you don’t live near Charleston, you either have to drive a good distance or choose something smaller.

About $4.27 billion of West Virginia’s economy is peeled away by tourism, which helps employ 44,400 of the state’s roughly 1.8 million people. The state has a lot to offer no matter what travelers are searching for, and the tourism industry continues to grow.

Geology of West Virginia

The United States of America is known for its vast and dynamic variety of eye-catching landscapes especially those on Long Island. This is because the country is about 2,680 miles running east to west and 1,583 miles north to south. That’s a lot of land with a lot of geological history, but you can find a surprising amount of variety in just a single state. So what does the geology of West Virginia have to offer? Well, probably more than you think. Let’s start with a little history to show you how West Virginia came to be.

Nearly a billion years ago, the North American continent was one of several that slammed into one another to form a vast supercontinent called Rodina. This was the period of time during which the foundation of West Virginia’s crust formed. These collisions of such land masses caused a great deal of heat and pressure, which melted rock that was already there. Some of this material rocketed to the surface to form mountains, while some were thrust downward into the mantle of Earth. Mountains erode slowly over millions of years, exposing the rock that was once pushed upward. A great deal of granite, gneiss, and igneous rocks are abundant in the Blue Ridge Mountains today. It all began that long ago.

Once the continents that formed Rodina began to split apart again, a layer of basalt was deposited because of volcanic activity. We call this the Catoctin Formation. Around 600 million years ago, this formation lay on top of the mountains and valleys that had been created earlier.

That we can learn so much about a single rock formation is one of the appeals of geology. The tectonic activity helps shuffle nutrients and minerals necessary for life to flourish, as it soon would. Far atop the Catoctin formation is a sedimentary layer of marine deposits and small stones. These formed about 500 million years ago as a small sea swallowed what is today the entire state of West Virginia. Some of these rocks can still be found in deeper wells. Before the state finally rose above sea level just over 300 million years ago, the small layer of water left the Greenbrier Formation–limestone.  

Even after the sea was gone, West Virginia had transformed into a massive swamp. During this period, massive deposits of sandstone and shale resulted. The Appalachian Mountains begin to form around 250 million years ago, and in fact, most of the land within the state’s borders was slowly thrust skyward. As usual, when you have mountains you’re left with a period of erosion.

Unfortunately, the Mesozoic Era that ran from 225 to 66 million years ago didn’t leave any sedimentary rocks in West Virginia. This layer is where most dinosaur fossils are found around the world, but none were preserved here. There was volcanic activity in the areas surrounding the state, and up until only 100,000 years ago, glaciers covered the area. When they melted, lakes and rivers formed.

Tourist Attractions in West Virginia

West Virginia is home to some of the greatest parks, wildlife refuges, tourist centers, and historical landmarks in the country, and any visit is sure to be breathtaking. No matter what time of year you visit, we’re sure you won’t want to leave anytime soon. Spring and summer are inviting for all the right reasons, and an autumn visit will leave you stunned at the great color and variety. Here are some of the best tourist attractions that West Virginia offers.

No visit is complete without an outdoors visit to the ironically named New River Gorge, where you’ll find a stunning river vista. It’s one of the oldest free-flowing rivers in North America. The water comes down from the Appalachian Plateau, carving out a great geographical treat appropriate for white water rafting, tubing, and kayaking. You’ll have plenty of other options as well: fish, hike, or take a zipline through the gorge. The bridge above is the longest steel span in the northern hemisphere, and the third highest in the United States.

Sometimes it feels like we have every nook and cranny of this world explored, but that’s completely inaccurate. We haven’t explored a fraction of the ocean floors, nor have we discovered even remotely close to every corner or the caverns just beneath us. The limestone bed that helped form the Seneca Caverns will surprise and delight you. You can join a guided tour if you’re brave enough to explore the slippery depths 165 feet below.

In Davis, West Virginia you’ll find Blackwater Falls, Elakala Falls, and Pendleton Falls, all of which provide unbeatable sights. In some places there are fishing, swimming, and camping options available. The Blackwater River flows through an eight mile gorge that you can hike to or look out over using the viewing platforms available for sightseers.

If you’re in the mood for unforgettable history, head on over to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. It’s located in a small community alongside the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, where you can get up to speed on the events that preceded the opening volleys of the Civil War. This is where John Brown attacked the United States arsenal soon before in 1859.

The citizens of West Virginia will welcome you with open arms, and you’ll notice that their entrepreneurial and commercial spirit is infused with southern hospitality you won’t find anywhere else. If you’re looking for a great time with great places, people, and food without the need to break the bank, then West Virginia should be your next stop!

Colleges and Universities in West Virginia

There’s a lot to consider when deciding which college or university is best for you. No matter what you might want in the perfect college, West Virginia is a great place to look. The state is home to great outdoors adventures, great destinations and landmarks, and great history–and its residents know how to have a great time while they provide a dash of southern hospitality, too. If you’re ready to bring your education to the next level while you have the time of your life, then read on to discover some of the best colleges and universities in West Virginia.

If you’re looking for a small school, then you could do no better than Alderson Broaddus University. This selective private school has only just under 1,000 undergraduates studying on a 170 acre campus and has been around since 1871. When you’re in the area, you can scout out the popular Philippi bridge, visit the Barbour County Historical Museum, or hike in the Audra State Park.

If you’d like to be part of a bigger crowd, then check out Marshall University. It has just under 10,000 undergraduates who all enjoy the city-like environment. The size helps reduce the cost substantially, and Virginia residents will pay only $7,798 in tuition without financial assistance. Catch a game at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, explore Ritter Park, or catch a ride on the New River Train. If you’re looking for a spiritual experience, head to St. Joseph’s Church. If you’re more in the mood for the arts, then explore the venue at Keith Albee Performing Arts Center.

There are only just over 400 undergraduates at the tiny Ohio Valley University, but that just means you’ll have a small community of friends who you’ll consider family, and everyone will know everyone. If that sounds like a great fit for you, then check out this liberal arts paradise. Ohio Valley University is located near all sorts of fun outdoor activities that will keep you occupied. If you want a nice autumn treat, grab a chocolate or caramel covered candy apple at Holl’s Swiss Chocolatier. Do some shopping at the conveniently located Grand Central Mall if you’re in the mood. Go for a run in the McDonough Wildlife Refuge or walk in Jackson Park.

Even the best schools in West Virginia might have an unfortunate reputation. West Virginia University has been ranked as one of the top party schools in America because of the number of students partaking in drugs and alcohol, but that doesn’t make a dent in the other factors that make it a great choice. It scores high in academics, and was ranked with high grades for diversity, athletics, campus atmosphere, and value by Niche.

What are you waiting for? Schedule a visit to a West Virginia college or university today!

Take a look at the exciting times at WVU in this video:

Five Best Hiking Trail Views

Five Best Hiking Trail Views

No shock to anyone, the mountain state has no shortage of high peaks with incredible views. The Appalachian Mountains provide the state of West Virginia with great hiking trails with a reward at the end. That is, if you can see the view through the thick foliage of the state., the state’s official resource site for tourists, ranked the five best views in their state.

  1. Overlook Rock Trail, Kanawha State Forest

This trail is located just on the outside of West Virginia’s largest city, Charleston. The 1.5-mile one-way route is covered in mossy rocks, thick trees, and bubbling streams. When you reach the top of the trail, the trees will open and you will see a spectacular view of the hills that surround Charleston city.

  1. Long Point Trail, New River Gorge

The Long Point Trail in Fayetteville County’s New River Gorge National River is not known for its peak; after all, it is a gorge. The 1.6-mile hike leads you to the tip of a rocky peninsula. The peninsula overlooks New River and Wolf Creek and hundred-foot sandstone cliffs the jet out in three directions. When you reach the edge, you will also see the New River Gorge Bridge. This makes for a nice twist of nature meets man made materials.

The return hike splits into dozens of mini trails. Some of these trails lead to abandoned mining towns, Fayetteville Town Park, and other little streams and waterfalls.

  1. High Knob Fire Tower, Brandywine Recreation Arena

The High Knob Fire Tower is located right on the border of West Virginia and Virginia in the George Washington National Forest. The Brandywine Recreation Area features various lakes, developed camping, and the Saw Mill Loop Trail. The recreation area also features a 3-mile 650-foot climb to the High Knob Fire Tower.

Once you reach the top of the trail, the trees will open up into a meadow. You can proceed to climb the High Knob Fire Tower. The tower will give you a 360-degree view over two state borders.

  1. Raven Rock Trail, Coopers Rock State Forest

Coopers Rock State Forest is just outside of the college town of Morgantown and features mountain biking, camping, and rock climbing on the rim of Cheat River Canyon. For the best views, take the 1.5-mile hike to the edge of the peak that overlooks Cheat Lake.

  1. Dolly Sods, Monongahela National Forest

The 17,000-acre in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area is home to 50 miles of trails and it can take hikers multiple days to finish. Some of the best views in the state are hidden in this area of the vast mountain ranges of West Virginia.

Tips for Winter Hiking

Many people limit their outdoor activities in the winter to the likes of ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding. But, as far as hiking is concerned, a lot of people are content to pack up the boots and retire the backpacks until the snow melts. However, there is still plenty of appeal to winter hiking. For one, crowds are much more sparse, making it much easier to appreciate the environment around you and feel like you’ve truly “gotten away.” And two, there’s something magical and serene about hiking on a trail after a fresh snowfall. As long as you know how to go about being safe in the colder climate, hiking in the winter can be arguably just as enjoyable as any other season.

Looking out for your safety and the safety of those with you is always a number one priority when it comes to hiking, and even moreso in the winter time. And one of the primary ways to do that is by having proper equipment. Adapting to winter conditions while hiking requires a whole new repertoire. For one, dressing appropriately is more important than ever. Layers are key, and many advise the following: a base layer to wick moisture off your body and prevent evaporative cooling, thus keeping you dry, fleece for insulation and preservation of body heat, and an outer shell that shields you from elements such as wind, rain and (since you’ll be hiking in the winter) likely snow. Remember, this isn’t a stroll down the sidewalk. A simple winter coat may not be enough during the prolonged exposure. It may be meant as a fun excursion, but the need for protecting yourself from the elements during a winter hike is still very real. It is also recommended you familiarize yourself with crampons and how to put them on, along with the more critical supplies such as a First Aid kit, compass, trail map, hiking poles, a multitool or pocket knife, and sources of both heat and light. Emergency equipment such as heavy sleeping bags or bivy sacks are certainly not the worst idea either, should you be forced to spend an unexpected night outside. Account also for some source of hydration. Becoming dehydrated even in the cold is a surprisingly common concern. Recommend packing a thermos or portable stove to heat water.

If you are starting out in the world of winter hiking, be reasonable with your limits. Even experienced summer hikers may find winter hiking to be a whole other animal. Trudging through a snow-laden path that is several miles long is not the same as walking that same path on a clear, summer morning, so be encouraged to plan for a shorter trip to acclimate yourself. It is also important to account for the shorter period of sunlight, so starting early in the morning is advisable as well. And as always, traveling in a group is much safer than traveling alone, especially if the worst should happen while you’re out. A lack of crowds does make winter hiking more appealing, but being completely alone can still be very dangerous. Even better if someone you are with is an experienced winter hiker in their own right.

Last but certainly not least, be prepared. Not just physically with your supplies and gear. Be prepared for what is to come. Check weather conditions before setting out, gain insight on the trail itself if you are able. Because of the drastic change in weather conditions between summer and winter, there are many more factors to account for. Beyond it just being colder, the threat of avalanches and whiteout conditions are real possibilities. Fortune also does not necessarily favor the bold. If conditions worsen while you are out, do not hesitate to turn around and head back to the trail head as soon as you can. The mountain and the trails will still be there even after inclement weather. There is no need to take such risks.

When Is The Best Time Of The Year To Go Hiking?

Most people assume that hiking is best done in spring and ends with the start of summer. However, it’s the best time to hike would be during fall and early winter, especially if you’re hiking in the national parks. During this time, the hiking trails are less crowded than summer allowing you to take many photos of the scenery. Here are a few reasons why hiking in fall or winter is definitely a good idea.

• Less Crowds
During this time, you should find less people in the hiking trails so you can always do it at your own pace. You don’t have to step on anyone’s toes and hire a criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights while you’re hiking. Additionally, you can always do it at your own pace without worrying about if you’re being left behind or the group behind you doesn’t give you enough peace to hike comfortably.

• The Fall Foliage
Fall is always characterized by the best foliage. It’s the best time to walk through the forest and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Fall foliage always produces the most beautiful display of color and it’s something you shouldn’t miss. There’s the radiant red, golden yellow and much more mosaic features that are always short-lived. Therefore, take a hike during this time and enjoy the beauty of what nature has to offer.

• Comfortable Temperature
During summer, your clothes will remain sticky and moist because of the intense and hot sun as well as the heavy humid air. Well, in the fall season, the temperature is cooler and drier making it easy and comfortable to go backpacking. There’s the brisk wind which keeps the air circulating normally allowing you to stay cool and your body builds up heat from the hiking.

During fall, there are shorter day which means the nights are colder, making them comfortable for sleeping. The chilly mornings will warm up gradually to a sunny and bright afternoon and layering comes in handy. The cooler air keeps your water cooler making it more refreshing than sipping on a hot can of water.

Less Bugs
Are you tired of getting bitten or eaten out by bugs when you’re hiking? Well, during fall, you can always leave your bug spray when you go hiking because there are fewer bugs out there. Note that, they don’t disappear completely then reappear again in the spring. However, since they are triggered by the short days, the insects will move to a warmer spot and they will find a good hiding spot anywhere. They can stay protected from the wind and hide from squirrels and birds.

• More Wildlife
There are few people on the trail meaning you will encounter more wildlife on the trail. Since the days are shorter, animals will often get busy before winter comes along. Therefore, you can always take lots of photos and have an amazing hike up and down the trail. Additionally, if you love hunting, you can always get the permits and enjoy your trip.

Therefore, if you’re planning on going hiking, wait till fall to get the best out of it.

If you go hiking in the winter, you still need to worry about bears! Check out the video below to see why.

West Virginia Tourism Because of The Trail

People who aren’t from West Virginia might not think about it in the sense of a prime travel destination but, with more and more people becoming interested in keeping healthy and exploring the countryside, it seems poised for a return to form. Tourists are interested in the beauty that the great West Virginia outdoors has to offer, and the possibilities are certainly endless. People can explore, kayak, go white water rafting, or stay in town and discover historical destinations they never knew existed.

West Virginia’s Civil War Trail will take you to some history-intense locations such as Jackson’s Mill Farmstead, Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park, the Philippi Covered Bridge, Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park, West Virginia Independence Hall, Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, and Grafton National Cemetery. If you’re interested in Civil War history, these stops are not to be missed.

If you’re in love with the outdoors, then be sure to take a trip to Blackwater Falls State Park, where you can find skiing and hiking activities for the whole family. If you just want to hang out and enjoy the beautiful view, then there are lodges, cabins and restaurants available on site. In addition, you’ll find other memorable locations like Bear Rocks Preserve and Backbone Mountain for hiking and camping nearby.

If you’re more interested in experiencing the areas mostly untouched by man, then you’re free to venture out into one of West Virginia’s nine swaths of land protected under The Wilderness Act. These include Cranberry Wilderness, Laurel Fork South Wilderness, and Otter Creek Wilderness. At any of these protected locations, you’ll find forests and preserves full of unique vegetation and wildlife–and great photo ops while you’re out hiking the many trails.

Don’t forget about the Appalachian Trail. It begins in Maine and extends downward before terminating in Georgia. The small town of Harpers Ferry is home of the aforementioned National Historical Park. You can find a number of museums, the John Brown’s Fort, and information on the Appalachian Trail right in town. If you head over in autumn, then you can view gorgeous colors around the Blue Ridge Mountains.

One of the best parts of West Virginia is the climate. It’s easier to plan a trip at any time of the year, but the best months are in spring and fall. Winters do get a bit chilly, and summers run quite a bit hotter than residents from other parts of the country might be accustomed to. No matter when you come to West Virginia, you’ll find something to do.

Preserve to Protect: A How-to Guide

Let’s face it: we’re part of one of the most uniquely wasteful societies in the world. Part of the ironic reason behind this is the increasingly complex way we manage our resources. The more we have available to us, the more we’re likely to consume. While that might be fine at home in the kitchen, it’s most definitely preferable to keep human impact as far away from natural preserves as possible. When you’re out for a hike or camping in the woods, you don’t want to see evidence that people were there before you.

Out of respect, here are a few of the things you can do to help keep nature at its finest:

If you’re on a backpacking excursion or simply taking a short hike, the smell of smoke can somewhat crush the feel of the great outdoors. While everyone loves a fire when camping, it’s better for the environment–and everyone else–if they’re kept small. When temperatures climb, check with local forest rangers to see if you’re allowed a fire.

When you do start a fire, be sure that it’s far enough away from dry brush that it won’t find its way elsewhere. When you go to sleep, take care to smother the fire completely. A lot of forest fires have been started after unwary campers failed to completely put out the embers beneath the top layer of ash. Be careful.

Don’t litter! Failing to pick up trash can hurt the wildlife, and any items you leave behind might stay there for years if they can’t decompose properly. Maintain a proper carry-in carry-out policy when outdoors. The general rule of thumb is simple: if you brought it with you, then don’t leave it behind. If you’re out backpacking or camping, then don’t forget to bring a trash bag.

When you’re on a trail, the best path is straight forward. When you step off the trail, you can errode the area around the trail and inadvertently make it grow in size. Sometimes you share your outdoors excursion with shockingly fragile ecosystems, and these are often endangered by hikers that wander off the path because of mud or other obstacles. Wear the proper footwear, and when possible, bypass the obstacle by going over.

This one’s important: make sure your food is contained to a bear bag or box. Leaving food out in the open can attract potentially dangerous wildlife, or help them rely on humans as a potential food source. No one wants a black bear wandering into camp because he’s used to getting a free meal. Keep safe, and be smart!

What is Hickory Creek Wilderness

Covering an area of over 8,600 acres, the Hickory Creek Wilderness is one of only two specifically designated wilderness areas in the state of Pennsylvania with the entirety of its property located within the state borders. It was designated Hickory Creek in 1984 by Congress, and it is currently part of a system of 109 million acres of land protected under the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964 while being managed by the state’s Forest Service.

Located within the Allegheny National Forest in the northwestern part of Pennsylvania, the Hickory Creek Wilderness boasts lush and dense wooded areas abundant with northern hardwoods and hemlock as well as a forest floor of flowers, ferns, shrubs and mosses. Wildlife within the designated wilderness area includes relatively high populations of bear, deer and wild turkey. The wilderness also supports a 12-mile loop of a hiking trail with a dedicated trail head located off State Route 2002, accessible only on foot.

Because the wilderness area is a potential home to endangered species of plants and animals and is protected under the National Wilderness Preservation Act, several stipulations about utilizing the services of Hickory Creek are set in place so as to detract from the integrity of the ecosystems as little as possible. Forest Service employees and wilderness managers often encourage hikers and backpackers to employ “Leave No Trace” techniques. Many of these techniques reduce waste products being left or disposed of within the wilderness to avoid disturbing aforementioned ecosystems by minimizing human activity on the grounds. Others include some of the following:

  • Repackage food to avoid waste
  • Use dedicated camping sites rather than establishing your own, and keep campsites small – utilize areas free of vegetation
  • Set camp at least 200 feet away from riparian areas (banks of rivers or streams), bury human waste 6-8 inches underground and following the same distance protocols
  • Keep fires small, use only sticks on the forest floor that can be broken by hand
  • Do not approach or follow wildlife – observe and admire from a distance

There are many other conditions to follow regarding “Leave No Trace” techniques, all of which are accessible online.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 was designed and signed into law for the purpose of preserving select areas of nature “where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” In the interest of maintaining some form of wilderness for generations to come, Congress had designated the 100 million plus acres of land protected under the Act for the sake of protecting it from development on any urban scale “for the permanent good of the whole people.” While the wilderness areas can be utilized and enjoyed for recreational purposes by the general population, the Act only allows development within the areas that could benefit and enhance these recreational activities while still maintaining the general integrity of the nature and inlaying ecosystems. Under this Act, wilderness areas like the Hickory Creek Wilderness within the Allegheny National Forest can endure and thrive amid urban development and modern-day commercialization of the United States, allowing consumers to enjoy such wild and natural areas for years to come.