Known as the second largest inland wetland in the United States, Canaan Valley is tucked amongst the mountains in the Monongahela National Forest. I journeyed to Canaan Valley for the first time en route to a conference in Charlottesville, Virginia in late-September, and I was amazed at the breathtaking beauty of the extensive bogs and diverse flora that is not often found in the lower-half of the United States.
Canaan Valley was not always known for this particular beauty, in terms of wetlands. Only one-hundred years ago, Canaan Valley and the surrounding mountains were revered for its dense red spruce forest that produced twice the amount of board per feet than other similar stands within the state. But post-logging, the valley was consumed in many environmental disasters. Organic material at the ground dried out and was nothing more than kindling. Many inevitable fires caused extensive destruction for months, burning away the productive layer of humus and leaving only bare rock and a very thin layer of soil.
Some say that Canaan Valley resembled more of a desert than the once-rich forest it had once been known for. A proposal for a hydroelectric dam and lake for the valley was floated around in the 1920s, advancing as far as property purchases by the West Virginia Power and Transmission Company -- which ironically saved the valley from development and destruction.
Over the period of decades, Canaan Valley was left virtually untouched. Much of the land in the northern half of the valley was owned by the power company, who left the valley as it was and allowed it to naturally regenerate into a wetland. The southern half of the valley was slowly developed into farms and homesteads.
Today, Canaan Valley is home to Canaan Valley Resort State Park, the Canaan Valley National Natural Landmark and National Wildlife Refuge, the Canaan Valley Ski Resort and Timberline Four Seasons Resort.Click through to find more on Canaan Valley, including 32 photographs.