West Virginia, United States

About West Virginia

West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, and Pennsylvania and Maryland to the northeast. The capital and largest city is Charleston. The Census Bureau considers West Virginia part of the South, as most of the state is south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The northern panhandle extends adjacent to Pennsylvania and Ohio with the West Virginia cities of Wheeling and Weirton being just across the border from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, while Bluefield is less than 70 miles (110 km) from North Carolina and Harper's Ferry is considered to be a part of the Washington metropolitan area. The unique position of West Virginia means that it is often included in a wide variety of geographical regions, including the Upland South, the Southeastern United States and often the Northeastern United States. The state is noted for its mountains and diverse topography, its historically-significant logging and coal mining industries, and its political and labor history. It is one of the most densely karstic areas in the world, making it a choice area for recreational caving and scientific research. The karst lands contribute to much of the state's cool trout waters. It is also known for a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including skiing, whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and hunting.

West Virginia Tourism and Recreation

About quarter of a million whitewater rafting enthusiasts raft West Virginia waters each year, and more than 750,000 skiers venture down the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. Major attractions are Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, New River Gorge National River, the Naval Telecommunications Station at Sugar Grove, and White Sulphur Springs, a popular mountain golfing resort. Nearly 80% of the state is covered by forest. Among the 37 state parks and state forests are Cass Scenic Railroad, which includes a restoration of an old logging line, and Prickett's Fort, with re-creations of pioneer life.

West Virginia Climate

The climate of West Virginia is a humid subtropical climate in some of the lower elevations, primarily in the southwestern portion of the state (including Huntington and Charleston), along with parts of the Eastern Panhandle east of the Appalachians with hot, humid summers and milder winters. The rest of the state generally has a humid continental climate with warm to hot, humid summers and cool to cold winters, increasing in severity with elevation. Some southern highland areas also have a mountain temperate climate (Koppen Cfb) where winter temperatures are more moderate and summer temperatures are somewhat cooler. However, the weather is subject in all parts of the state to change. The hardiness zones range from zone 5b in the central Appalachian mountains to zone 7a in the warmest parts of the lowest elevations.

Average January temperatures range from around 26°F (-4°C) near the Cheat River to 41°F (5°C) along sections of the border with Kentucky. July averages range from 67°F (19°C) along the North Branch Potomac River to 76°F (24°C) in the western part of the state. It is cooler in the mountains than in the lower sections of the state.

Annual precipitation ranges from less than 32 inches (81 cm) in the lower eastern section to more than 56 inches (140 cm) in higher parts of the Allegheny Front. Slightly more than half the rainfall occurs from April to September. Dense fogs are common in many valleys of the Kanawha section, especially the Tygart Valley. West Virginia is also one of the cloudiest states in the nation, with the cities of Elkins and Beckley ranking 9th. and 10th. in the U.S. respectively for the number of cloudy days per year (over 210). In addition to persistent cloudy skies caused by the damming of moisture by the Alleghenies, West Virginia also experiences some of the most frequent precipitation in the nation, with Snowshoe averaging nearly 200 days a year with either rain or snow.

West Virginia Transportaion

Highways form the backbone of transportation systems in West Virginia, with over 37,300 miles of public roads in the state. Airports, railroads, and rivers complete the commercial transportation modes for West Virginia. Commercial air travel is facilitated by airports in Charleston, Huntington, Morgantown, Beckley, Bluefield, Lewisburg, Bridgeport, Martinsburg, Wheeling, and Parkersburg. Cities like Charleston, Huntington, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Bluefield, and Logan have bus-based public transit systems. West Virginia is crossed by several interstate highways. I-64 enters the state near White Sulphur Springs in the mountainous east, and exits for Kentucky in the west, near Huntington. I-77 enters from Virginia in the south, near Bluefield. It runs north past Parkersburg before it crosses into Ohio. I-64 and I-77 are merged in a stretch of toll road known as the West Virginia Turnpike.

Because of the mountainous nature of the entire state, West Virginia has several notable tunnels and bridges. The most famous of these is the New River Gorge Bridge, which was at a time the longest steel single-arch bridge in the world with a 3,031-foot (924 m) span. Rail lines in the state used to be more prevalent, but many lines have been discontinued because of increased automobile traffic. Many old tracks have been converted to rail trails for recreational use, and the state is still served by a few commercial lines for hauling coal and by Amtrak.