E central state of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland (N), Virginia (E and S), and Kentucky and, across the Ohio R., Ohio (W).
Area, 24,181 sq mi (62,629 sq km).
Pop. (2000) 1,808,344, a 0.8% increase over 1980 pop.
Capital and largest city, Charleston.
Nickname, Mountain State.
Motto, Montani Semper Liberi [Mountaineers Are Always Free].
State bird, cardinal.
State flower, Rhododendron maximum, or “Big Laurel.”
Nicknamed the “Mountain State,” West Virginia is very hilly and rugged, with the highest mean altitude (1,500 ft/457 m) of any state E of the Mississippi. Nearly all of the state is on the Allegheny Plateau, with the jagged Virginia-West Virginia line roughly following the eastern escarpment of the plateau (known as the Allegheny Front). Extremely irregular in outline, West Virginia has two narrow projectionsthe Northern Panhandle, which cuts north between Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the Eastern Panhandle, which cuts east between Maryland (with the Potomac River forming the state line) and Virginia. In the Eastern Panhandle, a part of the Appalachian ridge and valley country, lie the state's lowest point (240 ft/73 m) near Harpers Ferry where the Shenandoah River joins the Potomac, as well as its highest point, Spruce Knob (4,860 ft/1,481 m).
West Virginia has extensive natural resources; it is among the nation's leading producers of bituminous coal, although coal production has declined. Natural gas, stone, cement, salt, and oil are also important. Lumber has long been an important resource; about two thirds of the land is still forested, most of it in valuable hardwoods. Since the 1960s a number of federal offices and facilities have been built in West Virginia, and government service is a growing employment sector.
West Virginia's natural beauty is spectacular, and the excellent hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and skiing offered here form the basis of a growing tourist industry. The state has numerous state parks, public hunting areas, and state forests; Monongahela National Forest and a portion of George Washington National Forest (most of which is in Virginia) are in West Virginia. Mineral springs are scattered throughout the state, notably at the resorts of Berkeley Springs and White Sulphur Springs. Other tourist attractions include Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (see National Parks and Monuments , table) and various mounds built by ancient peoples, most notably Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville, one of the nation's largest. Charleston is the capital and largest city; Huntington is the second largest city, followed by Wheeling and Parkersburg .
*Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Copyright (c) 2003.