Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, WV
By Mary Reed, photos by Attila Horvath
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge is managed for its plant and animal community – after all, that’s why it’s a wildlife refuge. Thankfully, two-legged adventurers benefit greatly from this arrangement.
“The reason why (the refuge) was created was because of its wetland significance and the creatures that require that habitat,” says refuge manager Jonathan Schafler. He’s talking about the Cheat Mountain salamander and several species of trout, more than 200 bird species, including the woodcock, as well as white-tail deer and black bear, “We’re a little bit of Canada gone astray; much of the species here are normally found at much higher latitudes.”
The refuge’s 16,000 acres are home to 31 miles of roads and trails, more than half of which are open to mountain bikes in addition to hikers. Set up a base camp along Camp 70 Road and ride it to the 2-plus mile Brown Mountain Trail; there you can drop your bike and hike the (pedestrian only) 2-mile Brown Mountain Overlook Trail, which gives you views of wetlands and the Blackwater River below. Stay a while and combine the 1.4-mile Cabin Mountain Trail with the 6.2-mile Middle Ridge Trail.
The Blackwater River and its tributary, Freeland Run, are excellent trout rivers due to their cool, clean water.
The entire Canaan Valley, the highest mountain valley east of the Rockies and West Virginia’s largest wetland, is outdoor rec central. Nearby are Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley State Park and ski resort, Timberline ski resort, White Grass cross-country ski resort and Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest.
Where it’s at: About 3½ hours from Pittsburgh; from I-79 and I-68 in Morgantown, WV, take I-68 E to MD 42 south for about 8 miles to US 219 south for about 26 miles to WV 32 south to Davis, WV, where you can take Camp 70 Road to the refuge or continue south on 32 to the visitors center
Contact: www.fws.gov/canaanvalley or (304) 866-3858
Digs: Designated primitive campsites can be found along the Blackwater River on Camp 70 Road, owned by the Canaan Valley institute (free, first come, first served), www.canaanvi.org or (340) 259-4739; Blackwater Falls State Park has cabins ($121/night and up) and a lodge ($94/night and up), www.blackwaterfalls.com or (304) 259-5216
Grub: Sirianni’s Café has a new second location in the valley, on 32, under Landis Realty (304) 866-3388
Brew: Blackwater Brewing Company in Davis, www.blackwater-brewing.com or (304) 259-4221
Gear and Outfitting: Highland Prospects in Davis, www.highlandprospects.com or (304) 259-5656