50 Interesting & Fun Facts About West Virginia State

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Tall buildings reflecting on a body of water against a sunset with pinkish-blue sky
One of the facts about West Virginia state is that Charleston is its capital city

Though it's often confused with its neighbor Virginia, West Virginia is an independent state rich with history. These two states were once a single territory but have developed their own identities.

John Denver composed the state song, and people have referred to West Virginia as "almost heaven." These are just two of the dozens of things that set the state apart from the rest of the country.

Whether you're planning a trip to West Virginia for the first time, or are interested in learning a little more about this often under-appreciated state, keep reading! Below you will find 50 interesting and fun facts about West Virginia state that will spark your curiosity.

  • 50 West Virginia facts

50 West Virginia State Facts

  1. West Virginia Fun Facts
    1. The first Mother's Day was in West Virginia
    2. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is the state song
    3. The golden delicious apple was discovered here
    4. West Virginia was the 35th state
    5. The first rural free delivery program began in West Virginia
    6. The New River Gorge Bridge is a record breaker
    7. New River Gorge National Park is "new"
    8. It's called the "Mountain State"
    9. West Virginia is a forested state
    10. The state is known for whitewater rafting
    11. A lot of coal is produced here
    12. John Brown fought for human rights
    13. There are a lot of outdoor recreation activities available
    14. The largest cut-stone masonry building is in this state
    15. The Greenbrier Resort is very exclusive
  2. Interesting Facts About West Virginia
    1. West Virginia University used to have a different name
    2. Charleston is its most important city
    3. There are multiple state animals
    4. The sugar maple grows here
    5. Charles Town was named after its founder
    6. Children chose the state flower
    7. Mountaineers are celebrated here
    8. The cardinal is popular
    9. The biggest fair is older than the state
    10. There are a lot of state parks
    11. West Virginia's highest and lowest points are near each other
    12. There's even a state tartan
    13. People can visit George Washington's bathtub
    14. Clay County is named after a Kentuckian
    15. West Virginia fought for the Union in the Civil War
  3. West Virginia History Facts
    1. The West Virginia capitol is taller than the one in Washington
    2. Wheeling Suspension Bridge used to be the world's longest
    3. The state was almost named after a Native American tribe
    4. The state's flag is nearly 100 years old
    5. Huntington, West Virginia flooded historically
    6. The British settled the territory
    7. A bridge in this state collapsed
    8. People have lived in West Virginia for 14,000 years
    9. A West Virginian made Olympic history
    10. No dinosaur fossils have been found
  4. Weird Facts About West Virginia
    1. There's a house made out of coal
    2. It was the first state with a sales tax
    3. Tourism is a leading industry
    4. The youngest WWI soldier was from WV
    5. The first spa opened in Berkeley Springs
  5. Cool Facts About West Virginia
    1. There are a lot of glass makers in the state
    2. It's been called "almost Heaven"
    3. West Virginia's borders are natural
    4. Weirton touches two borders
    5. One of the largest diamonds was found here

Show all

West Virginia Fun Facts

Steel bridge over a body of water, surrounded by trees
New River Gorge bridge, the longest steel arch bridge in the world, is 1700 feet long

The first Mother's Day was in West Virginia

In 1907, a Philidelphia woman named Anna Jarvis organized a day to honor her late mother. Her mother strived to create a community that supported women and fostered friendship.

A fun fact about West Virginia is that the first Mother's Day was celebrated as a church service in West Virginia. This is where Jarvis' mother resided. The idea caught on and, within a few years, the rest of the United States also celebrated the holiday.

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" is the state song

John Denver's famous song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is about the artist's time in West Virginia. Since it was released in 1971, it has captured the hearts of West Virginian residents.

In 2014, it joined the list of tunes that have become official West Virginia state symbols. The other songs on that list are "This is My West Virginia" and "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home."

The golden delicious apple was discovered here

In 1912, a West Virginia resident name Andrew Mullins came across an apple tree he'd never seen before. The apples were a yellow color and had a sweeter taste than other varieties on the market.

Initially, the tree and fruit were called "Mullins's Yellow Seedling and Annit apple." But the name was changed to "golden delicious" when the tree was sold. In 1995, it was even named the West Virginia state fruit.

West Virginia was the 35th state

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia made history by becoming the 35th state in the USA. Before that time, modern-day West Virginia was part of Virginia's state territory.

The decision to split the state was made after continuous disagreements and tensions between different regions began to impede the state's ability to govern itself. In particular, Virginia and West Virginia disagreed over matters regarding the Civil War.

The first rural free delivery program began in West Virginia

In 1896, the United States Postal Service began the rural, free delivery program. This program ensured that rural residents could receive their mail directly to their front door.

Before this time, anyone who lived outside of a city needed to pick up their mail from the post office. West Virginia was the first state to enact this program. Its success led to its implementation elsewhere in the United States.

The New River Gorge Bridge is a record breaker

The New River Gorge Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in the state. It was completed in 1977 and served as a more direct way to cross the gorge.

It's not just memorable due to its importance to transportation within the state. It's also the longest steel arch bridge in the world. It's 1700 feet long and, typically takes less than a minute to cross by car.

Small body of water, surrounded by trees
New River Gorge National Park is thought to be the second-oldest river in the world

New River Gorge National Park is "new"

Of the over 400 national parks in the US, the New River Gorge National Park is the newest. It opened in 1978.

The gorge's river has the opposite reputation--it was formed between 10 and 360 million years ago. It is thought to be the second-oldest river in the world.

A field with brown mountains in the distance under a light blue sky
The Appalachian Mountain Region, WV state is entirely within these mountains

It's called the "Mountain State"

Anyone who wants to brush up on state facts about West Virginia should learn the West Virginia state nickname. On state license plates and signs, you'll see the moniker "Mountain State."

This nickname refers to the over 1600 named mountains within the state's borders. West Virginia is also the only state that's entirely within the Appalachian Mountain Region.

West Virginia is a forested state

West Virginia is a highly wooded state. Within its territories, there are 70,000 acres of woodland, making it the third most forested state in the country.

These woods are divided between state forests, national forests, and other publicly and privately owned land. Altogether, these woods make up over 78% of the state's landscape.

Large grey and brown rocks, surrounded by free-flowing water
Cheat River rapids, one of the popular whitewater rafting rivers in West Virginia

The state is known for whitewater rafting

Due to the many natural rivers in the state, West Virginia has become popular with whitewater rafters. The Lower New River Gorge area alone draws thousands of thrillseekers every year.

The rafting season lasts five months between May and September when the water is warmest. During the early parts of the season, the waters are calmer for more leisurely rafting.

A lot of coal is produced here

West Virginia is a close second to Wyoming regarding coal production. On average, over 70,000 tons of coal are produced annually, making up just under 14% of the nation's supply.

There are over 60 streams of coal that are viable for mining. The industry is so prolific, it takes place in over 95% of the state.

John Brown fought for human rights

Before the Civil War, John Brown was a leader in the anti-slavery movement. Though he was a pacifist, he led protests against slave owners.

His most famous protest occurred in 1859 In Harpers Ferry. Brown led a raid to begin a slave revolt in the town. While he ultimately didn't succeed, his actions began to change minds regarding human rights in the area.

There are a lot of outdoor recreation activities available

West Virginia is full of natural resources that make it a prime place for outdoor recreation. From whitewater rafting to mountain climbing, it's a popular destination for lovers of the great outdoors.

The majority of West Virginia state is covered by woodland, much of which is protected on the state or federal level. Because of this, promoting outdoor activities was a way to get West Virginians to appreciate their surroundings.

The largest cut-stone masonry building is in this state

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic and Asylum was a psychiatric hospital that treated patients between 1864 and 1994. The building was designed to emulate gothic architecture using cut-stone masonry.

Standing at over 240,000 square feet, it's the largest building in the world constructed using this method. Its meticulously detailed architecture earned the building its spot in the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978.

EyeMark/Depositphotos.com
Stone walkway surrounded by grass and flowers leading up to a large white building
Greenbrier Resort is an exclusive resort serving the most important people in America

The Greenbrier Resort is very exclusive

You can impress your friends with your knowledge of West Virginia facts and information by mentioning the Greenbrier Resort. Located in White Sulphur Springs, this resort is one of the oldest in America.

Since 1778, upper-class society members have come to this prestigious and luxurious resort to be pampered. By the 1830s, it was a destination spot for the most important people in America, including judges, politicians, and even presidents.

Interesting Facts About West Virginia

White domed building, all lit up, facing a glassy water fountain at dusk
Charleston City, the state's capital and most populated city in West Virginia
steveheap/Depositphotos.com
Large brown building in the distance, with clock tower, grass, light post, and bench
Woodburn Hall at West Virginia University, known as the Agricultural College

West Virginia University used to have a different name

Today, West Virginia University is one of the top research institutions in the country. As an R1 university, it's in the top 3% of schools for research and education.

The University has always been a top place for higher education, but it was once known by a different name. For a year (1867-1868), the school was known as the Agricultural College of West Virginia.

Charleston is its most important city

As the state's capital, Charleston is the most important and most populated city in West Virginia. However, this wasn't always the case.

Since becoming a state, West Virginia has moved its capital multiple times. Between 1855 and 1877, state legislation switched the capital city back and forth between Wheeling and Charleston.

There are multiple state animals

When you remember how much of the state is undeveloped, it's no surprise that there are multiple animals named as state symbols. The official West Virginia state animal is the black bear, but there are other "state animals" as well.

For example, there is a state fish (the brook trout), a state butterfly (the Monarch), and even a state snake (timber rattlesnake). The black bear is one of the last to be officially voted to be a state symbol. The legislation was passed in 1973.

Under-branch view of a Maple tree with autumn orange leaves
An interesting fact about West Virginia is that the sugar maple tree grows here

The sugar maple grows here

The West Virginia state tree might surprise you. The sugar maple may be more commonly associated with Vermont, but it's also a West Virginia symbol.

The tree was selected after a 1949 vote among students across the state. However, it doesn't have exclusivity as three other states chose the sugar maple as well.

Charles Town was named after its founder

Many people might assume that Charles Town, West Virginia was named after King Charles II, similar to Charleston, South Carolina. However, that would be incorrect.

The town was founded in 1780 after the US had declared independence from England. It was named after its founder, Charles Washington. Charles was George Washington's younger brother who petitioned to officially start the town in 1786.

Children chose the state flower

In 1903, the West Virginia state flower was the rhododendron, chosen by both schoolchildren and the governor at the time.

Rhododendron is a broad term that covers over 1,000 species of similar plants. While a specific strain wasn't chosen to be the state's symbol, the flower you'll usually see associated with West Virginia is white.

Mountaineers are celebrated here

One of the most interesting West Virginia history facts is just how celebrated mountaineering is in the state. This fact isn't just evidenced by the state's nickname, but also by the West Virginia state motto.

"Montani semper liberi" was chosen as the official phrase of West Virginia in 1872. The motto is Latin for "Mountaineers are always free."

The West Virginia state bird was chosen in 1949. This was the year students, bird watchers, and sporting groups picked the cardinal to be a state symbol.

When the first Europeans came to the area, cardinals were a nostalgic reminder of their homes. The bird was called the "cardinal" because its color was similar to the colored robes Catholic cardinals wear.

The biggest fair is older than the state

Though West Virginia became a state in 1863, the first iterations of the modern-day state fair pre-date that by nearly a decade. The earliest version of the West Virginia state fair was held in Lewisburg in 1854.

The current fair is still held in Lewisburg, though it has been held in multiple locations around the state. The fair gets an average of 160,000 visitors annually.

Wooden cabin overlooking brown rocks, with trees in the background
Babcock State Park, one of the 35 state parks open to visitors in West Virginia

There are a lot of state parks

Thirty-five West Virginia state parks are open to visitors. There are also nine protected state forests. This is in addition to the six national parks that are found in West Virginia's territory.

The largest state park is Watoga State Park which covers over 10,000 acres. Pocahontas County has the largest number of the state's protected parks with five on its land.

Dusky mountains under a bright sunset, with purple flowers, trees, and greenery
Spruce Knob is the highest point in WV standing nearly 4900 feet above sea level

West Virginia's highest and lowest points are near each other

The eastern panhandle of West Virginia has one of the most diverse landscapes in the state. The highest and lowest natural points in West Virginia are both in this part of the state.

The highest point in West Virginia is Spruce Knob, which stands nearly 4,900 feet above sea level. On the other hand, the state's lowest point is Harper's Ferry, which is just under 250 feet above sea level.

There's even a state tartan

In 2008, one of the most unique West Virginia state symbols was chosen. A state tartan was designed by a West Virginian of Scottish descent.

The pattern is the traditional "plaid" pattern of Scottish tartans, with colors meant to represent the state. Red, yellow, blue, black, green, and white are all in the pattern and represent the other state's symbols.

People can visit George Washington's bathtub

George Washington's bathtub is the only monument of its kind. The landmark is meant to represent the first President's trip to West Virginia's mineral springs in 1748.

The current stone bathtub isn't the exact tub Washington used during his visit. Instead, it's meant to replicate the bathing conditions of the spring's early visitors.

Clay County is named after a Kentuckian

One of the interesting historical facts about West Virginia is that part of the state is named after a Senator from Kentucky. Clay County is named after Henry Clay.

Henry Clay was a Kentucky lawyer who went on to represent Kentucky as a Senator. Henry Clay's achievements were recognized by West Virginia with the naming of Clay County.

West Virginia fought for the Union in the Civil War

If the American Civil War had never happened, West Virginia might not exist. While Virginia fought for the Confederate army, West Virginians didn't agree.

Of the 50,000 West Virginian soldiers in the war, the majority fought for the Union. This disagreement caused Virginia to split into the two states that exist today.

West Virginia History Facts

One of the facts about West Virginia state is that its capitol building is very tall
The capitol building in WV is taller than USA's; the golden dome is its focal point

The West Virginia capitol is taller than the one in Washington

The current West Virginia State Capitol was constructed between 1924 and 1932. Before this location, there were multiple other capitols. For example, the Linsly Institute served as the earliest.

The capitol building's focal point is its golden dome. The top of the dome is 292 feet tall. The dome of the US capitol building is 287.5 feet.

Brick bridge with lights on cables at night time, standing on a body of water
Wheeling Suspension Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1851

Wheeling Suspension Bridge used to be the world's longest

In 1849, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge was opened to the public after two years of construction. It served as a faster and more direct route across the Ohio River.

The bridge became a national historic landmark in 1975. This despite it being on the National Register of Historic Places by that time. Its historical significance is that it was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1851.

The state was almost named after a Native American tribe

West Virginia is a fairly obvious name for the state. Having once been part of the Virginia territory, the name shows that connection.

However, the state was almost named something completely different. When petitioning for statehood, one of WV's proposed names was "Kanawha" which was a Native American tribe that lived in the area.

The state's flag is nearly 100 years old

If you find yourself in the area, you'll see the West Virginia state flag without a doubt. The majority of the flag is white to allow the state's coat of arms in the center to stand out.

If you take a closer look, the coat of arms shows the date of West Virginia's statehood and the state motto. Mining and Mountaineering are also featured. This 1929 design represents the most important parts of West Virginia's culture.

Huntington, West Virginia flooded historically

The 1937 Ohio River flood had devastating results all over the eastern part of the US. After nearly three weeks of consecutive rain, the river was unable to contain its water levels.

Nearly a million people were left homeless as a result of the natural disaster. Huntington, West Virginia was just one of the many towns that were destroyed.

The British settled the territory

A list that includes West Virginia history facts wouldn't be complete without mentioning the state's first settlers. Much like the other areas of the eastern US, the British were the first to colonize the territory.

A Welsh settler, Morgan Morgan, is credited as being the first European in what would later become West Virginia. He arrived in the US in 1731 and settled in the area shortly thereafter.

A bridge in this state collapsed

In December 1967, West Virginia was struck by tragedy. The Silver Bridge, which crossed the Ohio River connecting West Virginia and Ohio, collapsed.

The collapse occurred during rush-hour traffic and killed 46 people. It took four years for the investigation to be completed. It was determined that the bridge wasn't strong enough to support the weight of all the vehicles that traversed it daily.

People have lived in West Virginia for 14,000 years

People of European descent have only been in West Virginia for a few hundred years. However, archaeological evidence suggests people have been living in the area for much longer.

14,000 years ago, the first nomadic people arrived in the area after crossing the Bering Strait. The descendants of these people likely went on to form the region's Native American tribes.

steveheap/Depositphotos.com
Bridge over a body of water against a background of buildings under a light blue sky
Historical Facts, West Virginia, Mary Lou Retton was born in Fairmont West Virginia

A West Virginian made Olympic history

At the 1984 summer Olympics, Mary Lou Retton from West Virginia made history. She was the first woman from the United States to win a gold medal in gymnastics.

However, since then the state hasn't sent many athletes to the Olympics. The state hasn't had a representative at the games since 1996.

No dinosaur fossils have been found

If you visit, you'll be able to see dinosaur fossils at many of the state's natural history museums. However, they're all loaned from other places since no dinosaurs have ever been found in West Virginia.

Prehistoric amphibians and mammals have been found in the West Virginia territory. There's even a state fossil. Megalonyx jeffersonii is a giant sloth that has become a symbol of the state.

Weird Facts About West Virginia

Bluish-green mountains amidst greenery under white clouds
Potomac Highlands, WV; tourism is a leading industry in the state's economy

There's a house made out of coal

In Williamson, West Virginia, you can find the Coal House. Constructed in 1933, the building is made from 65 tons of coal.

The house is used as the town's chamber of commerce and is a tourist attraction. In 2010, the building caught fire and was extensively damaged. It was reconstructed the following year.

It was the first state with a sales tax

In 46 out of the USA's 50 states, you have to pay a sales tax whenever you buy something. However, if it weren't for West Virginia, sales tax might not exist.

West Virginia was the first state to institute a sales tax in 1921. When the Great Depression began in 1929, other states began to follow suit to help ensure taxes would still be paid.

Tourism is a leading industry

One of the most unexpected facts about the state of West Virginia is how important tourism is to the state. In recent years, it's become a leading industry in the state's economy.

Tourism has helped promote the economy in the state's rural areas. Nature tourism that centers around the state's parks and outdoor recreation is particularly important.

The youngest WWI soldier was from WV

In 1917, the US joined WWI, three years after it began. Though the war ended the following year in 1918, it still played a large role in US history.

Men from all over the country enlisted to fight for their country. The youngest soldier was a boy from West Virginia--Chester Merriman. He was only 14 years old when he enlisted.

The first spa opened in Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Springs is famous for having one of the first spas in the country. The town gets its name from the natural mineral springs in the nearby area.

It didn't take long for word of these naturally warm water pools to get out. Soon, people from all over the East Coast were arriving at the springs for some much-needed relaxation.

Cool Facts About West Virginia

Large gray rocks with pine trees and a golden sunrise in the background
Sunrise at Bear Rocks Preserve, in the state that has been called "Almost heaven"

There are a lot of glass makers in the state

It might surprise you to learn that numerous glass makers reside in West Virginia. Glass-making is a highly intricate art that takes a lot of patience and skill.

Some of these artists work individually, but others work for some of the state's resident glass companies. The Fenton Art Glass factory and the Blenko Glass factory are two examples of West Virginian glass makers that are popular nationwide.

It's been called "almost Heaven"

While it's not an official state nickname, West Virginia has started to be called "almost Heaven." This term comes from one of the state's songs.

As you've read, John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is about the state. One of the lyrics even says "Almost heaven, West Virginia." The moniker has grown in popularity among people who call the state home.

Large body of water with bridge and buildings in the distance against a dusky sky
The Ohio River is one of five natural borders separating Ohio from WV

West Virginia's borders are natural

West Virginia is bordered by five other states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. However, many of these state lines are created by natural borders. The Ohio River and the Appalachian Mountains separate West Virginia from its eastern and western neighbors. The Big Sandy and Tug Fork rivers also create a natural border between the state and Kentucky.

Weirton touches two borders

Weirton might seem like an unassuming city, but it's one-of-a-kind. Since it's in the narrowest part of West Virginia, the panhandle, it's able to touch two state borders.

Weirton shares a state line with both Ohio and Pennsylvania. The city is also located in two different counties, even though the city is only 20 square miles.

One of the largest diamonds was found here

A strange yet interesting fact about West Virginia has to do with diamonds. It is rich in many natural resources, but diamonds aren't one of them.

Despite no natural diamond mines being located in West Virginia, one of the largest natural diamonds in America was found in the state. The Punch Jones Diamond was mysteriously found in Peterstown, West Virginia in 1928.

In Summary

Were there any West Virginia facts that surprised you? I bet you had no idea that it was the first state with a sales tax. Or that you could visit President George Washington's bathtub!

Hopefully, this list has sparked your interest in this little state and inspired you to do some research of your own. Fifty facts are a lot, but this list is just the tip of the iceberg to learn more about West Virginia trivia!

This article was edited by Henry Grahame.

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Written by Gabrielle T

ggtraveler1213 WRITER Gabrielle loves all things travel and culture. She is originally from the USA, but she has lived in Italy for over a decade. She's always ready to pack her bags, grab her passport, and head out on an adventure!


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