GHENT, WV (WVNS) — One iconic aspect of West Virginia is its mountains, giving it the title of the Mountain State.
But what about it caused West Virginia to get this title?
Out of the 13 states that the Appalachian Mountains run through, West Virginia is the only one that is entirely within the Appalachian Mountain region.
The Appalachian Mountains are one of three major mountain ranges in the United States. The other two are the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, and all three are very old and contain a lot of history.
Stretching approximately 2,000 miles (about 3,200km) from the southern states above Florida up into parts of Canada, the Appalachian Mountains are the only major mountain range on the eastern part of the United States. Mount Mitchell in North Carolina is the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains, and is also the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.
The age of the Appalachian Mountain range is more complicated than expected. The mountains originally formed about 480 million years ago and kept growing as Pangea formed, and they are believed to have once been as high as the Rocky Mountains or the Alps. However, when Pangea split, the original Appalachian Mountains almost entirely disappeared, and further erosion turned what was once mountains into almost a plain that was a far cry from what they once were.
If the original Appalachian Mountains eroded away, how are they still here?
The Appalachian Mountains that can be seen today were formed by new volcanic-tectonic activity around 65 million years ago. However, erosion still wore down the mountain peaks over millions of years, making the Appalachian Mountains the shortest of the three main mountain ranges in the United States with its average elevation being less than half of the ranges of the other two.
The 13 states within the Appalachian Mountain range are Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
There are three major regions that the Appalachian Mountains can be split into, the Northern, Central, and Southern Regions. The Northern Region of the Appalachian Mountains goes from Labrador and Newfoundland in Canada to the Hudson River in New York, the Central Region spans from the Hudson Valley to the New River, and the Southern Region covers the remaining area south of the New River.
The climate in the Appalachian Mountains is very diverse, and includes a wide variety of plants including oaks, maples, pine, birch, laurel, and more, as well as animals such as white-tail deer, elk, moose in northern areas, black bears, beavers, foxes, bobcats, groundhogs, wild turkeys, bald eagles, hawks, and more.
The Appalachian Mountains have six national parks, eight national forests, two national wildlife refuges, plenty of state parks, and gorgeous scenic routes within their range, as well as the New River, the French Broad River, and the Susquehanna River that are some of the oldest rivers in the world.
The Appalachian Mountains also include the Appalachian Trail, which is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. It spans through the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Georgia and is approximately 2,000 miles long.
The Appalachian Mountains are full of history and while they might not be the tallest, they are certainly not the youngest, but that does not make them any less beautiful.