The Northern Panhandle of West Virginia extends northward from central West Virginia along the valley of the Ohio River. This singular boundary feature was established in 1779 to provide western Virginia increased territory along the Ohio River, which was then the nation's most important inland waterway.
The panhandle is home to two race tracks and gaming centers and some of the best-preserved historical communities in the state. Its economy is tied closely to that of Ohio and Pennsylvania, the U.S. states between which it is wedged. Much of the region outside its populous Ohio Valley corridor is in farmland. Natural gas production is a primary industry in the southern region of the panhandle.
The Northern Panhandle region includes, from north to south, the counties of Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, and Marshall. To the south, Wetzel County, though not part of the panhandle, is often considered a panhandle county. The region roughly corresponds to the Northern Panhandle travel region of the West Virginia Department of Commerce.
Three expressways travel the Northern Panhandle. Interstates 70 and 470 course east to west across the central panhandle at Wheeling, and the US-22 expressway passes through at Weirton. Highway WV-2 travels north to south through the whole of the panhandle, following the valley of the Ohio River and linking most of the region's principal communities. Parts of WV-2 between Moundsville and Wheeling are expressway.