Bluestone Region

The Bluestone Region of southern West Virginia extends westward from the New River to the headwaters of the Bluestone River in western Virginia. Large areas of the region are park or state-managed recreational land. Bluestone, Pipestem, and Camp Creek state parks preserve areas of forest and attract tourists to the northern region. The Bluestone National Scenic River, part of the national park system, protects the gorge of lower Bluestone River. Bluestone Lake, an impoundment of the New River, the second largest lake in West Virginia, bounds the region on the east. Winterplace ski resort caps the summit of Flat Top Mountain to the north. Tourism and agriculture are primary industries.

The Bluestone Region includes Mercer County, western Summers County, and adjacent areas of RaleighWyoming, and McDowell counties, in West Virginia, and Bland and Tazwell counties, in Virginia. The region corresponds to the southern area of the New River-Greenbrier Valley travel region of the West Virginia Department of Commerce.

Bluestone Region Travel

Interstate 77 courses north to south through the region, and the US-460 expressway crosses from east to west, passing through Bluefield and Princeton, where it meets I-77. Highway WV-20 crosses the region diagonally, providing access to many Bluestone park areas, and US-52 travels through the western county into the rugged Hatfields & McCoys Region.

Bluestone Physiography

The Bluestone Country region lies between two great Appalachian physiographic provinces — the Allegheny Plateau and the Ridge and Valley Province. The rugged peaks of Flat Top Mountain, to the north, represent the high southern edge of the Allegheny Plateau, also known as the Allegheny Front. From 3,500 feet along its summits, Flat Top descends in steps and benches into the valleys of the Bluestone River and its tributaries. This central region is characterized by broad flats and tablelands broken by steep-walled gorges. Cliffs, waterfalls, and rock formations hide within every crevice, generated as water erodes over tough sandstones and weaker red and green shales.

Toward the south, the land begins to buckle and fold before rising sharply as East River Mountain, the smooth 3,000-foot wall that separates Virginia and West Virginia and marks the northernmost range of the Valley and Ridge Province. The latter province extends southward across Virginia in waves to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachia’s easternmost range.

Climate

The humid continental climate of Bluestone Region is characterized by sharp temperature contrasts, both daily and seasonally. Summers, renowned for their cool nights, are rarely extreme and are generally comfortable. Daytime temperatures then average around 70 to 80 degrees. Days with temperatures above 100 degrees are rare. When exploring in summer, be sure to dress for cool nights.

Winter temperatures are mild in the west, moderately rigorous in the east, and frequently severe at elevations above 3,000 feet — on the heights of Tallery, Flat Top and East River mountains. Cold waves occur two or three times a year, but seldom last more than a few days. Most winter weekends are pleasant — from 30 to 50 degrees. Predominant westerly circulations in this latitude deposit considerable moisture on the windward slopes of high ridges. Snowfall amounts illustrate this pattern most clearly: seasonal averages total 30 inches in the lowlands and 60 inches in the mountains.

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