North America > United States of America > South (United States of America) > West Virginia > Potomac Highlands
The Potomac Highlands region is in West Virginia.
- 1 Berkeley Springs - a haven for the arts and a relaxing getaway for spa lovers
- 2 Charles Town
- 3 Elkins
- 4 Franklin
- 5 Harpers Ferry - a popular destination for Civil War buffs
- 6 Hedgesville
- 7 Helvetia
- 8 Hillsboro
- 9 Marlinton
- 10 Martinsburg
- 11 Moorefield
- 12 Romney - the oldest town in West Virginia
- 13 Davis - the highest incorporated town in the state of West Virginia has an elevation of 3,200 feet.
- 1 Monongahela National Forest - over 919,000 acres of forest stretching from near Elkins to Richwood. Includes several wilderness areas, including Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob.
The Potomac Highlands of West Virginia is a large region comprised of 11 counties. This region is filled with hills and mountains that provide remarkable beauty, but at the same time make travel by land difficult. Counties that seem very close on a map are much more distant as far as travel time, and some areas in West Virginia are more closely related and connected to nearby cities in neighboring states. For example, the Appalachian Mountains and I-81 (this region's only interstate highway) keep Martinsburg, WV more closely connected to Hagerstown, MD than Berkeley, Springs, WV. However, this lack of interstate highways provides for more relaxed, scenic travel along smaller highways and county roads.
One of the best ways to experience the Potomac Highlands is to leave the main roads behind and travel along the more local roads. They provide spectacular off the beaten path views or winding roads clinging to pristine creeks and rivers.
- Baker. Four to five miles south of the unincorporated community of Baker are a series of roadcuts exposing the middle Devonian Mahantango Formation where fossils can be collected. Large, well-preserved specimens of the brachiopod Spinocyrtia granulosa are common, and large, well preserved Tropidoleptus carinatus specimens can also be found in the area. Like the aforementioned brachiopods, some of the local Fenestella bryozoans are also fairly large. Other local fossils include bivalves, corals, the gastropod Loxonema hamiltonae, straight-shelled nautiloids, and trilobites.
- Baxter. A mile and a quarter north of the unincorporated community of Baxter proper, near Tihance Creek, Devonian fossils can be found at a limestone exposure along a country road at the northwest end of Ferrell Ridge. Local fossils include a great variety of brachiopods as well as the trilobites Dalmanites and Phacops. Schellwienella, Rhipidomella, Leptostrophia, Rensselaeria, Meristella, Spirifer, Actinopteria, Phacops, Dalmanites.
- Capon Lake. Just to the south of the unincorporated community of Capon Lake, five miles south of Wardensville, is a quarry where early to middle Devonian fossils can be found in the rocks of the Needmore Formation. Local fossils include the ammonoid Agoniatites venuxemi, bivalves, brachiopods, the nautiloid Michelinoceras subulatum, the conularid Conularia, horn corals, crinoids, the gastropod Loxonema, ostracodes, and trilobites.
- Falls. A quarter of a mile northwest of the unincorporated community of Falls, at the eastern end of Greenland Gap, fossils of the Devonian brachiopod Spirifer can be collected from exposures of the Ridgeley Sandstone along Patterson Creek.
- Lost City. The unincorporated community of Lost City is home to an outcrop of the middle Devonian Mahantango Formation where fossils can be collected. Notable local fossils include bivalves, brachiopods, the bryozoan Fenestella, corals, calices of the crinoid Arthroacantha, the gastropod Platyceras, the large straight-shelled nautiloid Spyroceras, and trilobites. Some of the local Phacops trilobites have been turned to fool's gold. Many of the local fossils are covered in little glittery crystals.
- Perry: Three miles south of Perry proper is a road cut exposure of the Martinsburg Formation with a variety of late Ordovician fossils. Most are poorly preserved and distorted, however, they are often stained bright orange or yellow and stand out starkly against the dark green shale. Fossils that can be found here include bivalves, brachiopods, bryozoans, crinoids like Ectenocrinus simplex, the graptolite Climacograptus, the straight-shelled nautiloid Michelinoceras, and trilobites, especially Cryptolithus.
- Romney: Just beyond the eastern edge of a quarry a little over two miles west of Romney are rocks of the Tonoloway Formation and Helderberg Group that contain fossils of late Silurian to early Devonian age. This site especially notable for the well-preserved coral Favosites limitaris. They don't look like much in the field, but clean up beautifully with acid. Other fossils include brachiopods, bryozoans, the cystoid Pseudocrinites, and the big ostracode Leperditia.
- Rio: Roughly four miles north of Rio and one mile and half south of Delray is a road cut alongside Route 11 where middle Devonian fossils can be collected from the Mahantango Formation. A great diversity of fossils can be found here, including the ammonoid Agoniatities, bivalves, brachiopods, bryozoans, corals. crinoids, the straight-shelled nautiloid Michelinoceras, gastropods and trilobites.
- Tomahawk: A quarter of a mile west of Tomahawk alongside Ferrell Ridge, Devonian fossils can be collected from the Devonian Port Jervis Formation. Local fossils include a great variety of brachiopods, the bryozoan Cyphotrypa, the gastropod Platyceras, and the trilobite Homalonotus.
- Upper Tract: One mile north of Upper Tract, a variety of early Devonian fossils are widespread through the local rocks of the Corriganville Formation|Corriganville and Oriskany Formations. Rocks of the Oriskany Sandstone are more common here than those of the Corriganville, but most of its fossils are poorly preserved and difficult to extract from the hard matrix. Local Oriskany fossils include the brachiopods Rensellaeria and Costispirifer, crinoids, the gastropod Platyceras, tentaculitids and the giant trilobite Trimerus. Like the Oriskany Sandstone, the Corriganville formation is hard enough to hinder the collection of its abundant fossils. The brachiopods Eatonia and Leptaena are common, as are pieces of the large trilobites Dalmanites pleuropteyx and Trimerus. Other local fossils include calcareous algae, bryozoans, the coral Favosites helderbergiae, crinoids, and the gastropod Platyceras. The route to this site overlooks a beautiful gorge for several miles.
Wardensville: Slightly less than two miles east of Wardensville is a series of road cuts alongside Route 55 where middle Devonian fossils can be collected from the exposed rocks of the Mahantango Formation. Local fossils include the ammonoid Agoniatites, bivalves, brachiopods, the bryozoan Fenestella, the straight-shelled nautiloid Michelinoceras, corals, crinoids, gastropods, tentaculitids, as well as trilobites like Phacops and Trimerus. Some of the local Agoniatites specimens have been turned to fool's gold.
Roughly four miles west of Wardensville is a quarry where a great diversity of early to middle Devonian fossils can be collected from the rocks of the Needmore Formation. This great diversity of fossils is attributable to the large variety of rock layers here, all of which formed in different kinds of marine environment. Some of the brachiopods and nautiloids in the site's dark gray shale layer, notably, have been turned into fool's gold. Other local fossils include the ammonoid Agoniatites vanuxemi, bivalves, the bryozoan Fenestella, corals, crinoids, gastropods, the nautiloid Michelinoceras subulatum, pteropods, and a variety of trilobites, notably multiple species of Phacops.
Five miles west of Wardensville proper late Silurian to early Devonian fossils from the Keyser Formation can be found along the banks of the Lost River. At least some of the collecting grounds here are apparently on private land, so make sure you dot your "i"s and cross your "t"s regarding permission to collect at any given exposure. The corals Favosites and Halysites are common here. Other local fossils include the brachiopod Cupulorostrum, crinoids, and stromatoporoids.
Five miles south of Wardensville, is a quarry where early to middle Devonian fossils can be found in the rocks of the Needmore Formation. Local fossils include the ammonoid Agoniatites venuxemi, bivalves, brachiopods, the nautiloid Michelinoceras subulatum, the conularid Conularia, horn corals, crinoids, the gastropod loxonema, ostracodes, and trilobites.
- Williamsport: A very short distance east of town fossils can be collected from exposures of Devonian limestone along a small creek. Local fossils include corals and the sponge Stromatopora.
- Yellow Spring: Two miles north of Yellow Spring along the banks of the Cacapon River are a road cut and natural exposures of the early to middle Devonian Needmore Formation where fossils can be found. Well preserved trilobites in the genera Phacops and Coronura can be collected from freshly extracted rock. The exposed rock is highly weathered and the fossils damaged. Other local fossils include the ammonoid Agoniatites vanuxemi, the bivalve Praecardium multiradiatum, brachiopods, the bryozoan Fenestella, corals, crinoids, gastropods, the hyolithid Hyolithes, coalified fragments of plant material, and trace fossils of animal trails across or through the ancient sediment.
Be careful while driving on mountain roads. The weather can be unpredictable and can change very quickly. The current weather may be fine in the valley, but the weather in higher elevations can be much different. Rain, snow, fog, and high winds can catch you off guard when you reach the top of a local mountain in the Potomac Highlands, and windy roads can combine with treacherous weather to create difficult driving. Additionally, high winds and just a small snowfall may create large snowdrifts.
Much of the southern part of the Potomac Highlands is inside the National Radio Quiet Zone, a huge area of land where radio transmissions are strongly restricted to protect the Green Bank Observatory. The result is that cell phone service is mostly nonexistent. Radio stations are limited, too, with just the Allegheny Mountain Radio network operating a handful of low-power FM rebroadcasting stations.