Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Native American Indians’

Seneca Rocks Discovery Center in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia

Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks

The towering Seneca Rocks with razorback ridges appear to have been shot up out of the earth in the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia. Perhaps this was due to a volcanic vein explosion years ago, but whatever the cause they are spectacular. These massive rocks rise 900 feet above the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River.

It can only be guessed about the early people who lived in this place. When the Discovery Center was built, two villages were found under that area. The most recent one was dated at 600 years ago.

The Cliffs of Seneca by David Strother for New Harpers Magazine in 1872.

The Cliffs of Seneca by David Strother for Harpers New Monthly Magazine in 1872.

One of the early explorers to reach this area in 1853 was a writer and magazine illustrator, David Strother. He sketched the massive Seneca Rocks and several years later in 1872 reworked it into a wood engraving. This special printing was highlighted in the 1872 Harpers New Monthly Magazine.

Viewing Seneca Rocks through binoculars enables you to see the observation tower at the top and even the people there. If you have time, you will want to climb to the top and view the  surrounding area from their observation deck. Many trails lead to the summit for climbers of various abilities, so find one perfect for you.

Climbing to the top served another purpose in 1943-44 as it was a training ground for West Virginia Militia during WWII. Here they practiced climbing the rock sides in preparation for the Apennines Mountains in Italy.

Seneca River

Scenic Seneca Creek

When you head over the walkway at Seneca Creek, watch carefully as you cross the bridge. Trout can be seen swimming along through the creekk, which bubbles over the rocky bottom.

This condensed version of the Legend of Seneca Creek tells an interesting Indian tale:

Snow Bird waited at the base of Seneca Rocks.

Snow Bird waited at the base of Seneca Rocks.

For as long as she could remember, Princess Snow Bird’s family lived at the base of Seneca Rock. All during her youth, she wanted to climb those rocks and as she became older, she did climb higher and higher until one day she reached the pinnacle. For a while she enjoyed her companions of warm sunshine, refreshing breeze, thoughts and dreams. But soon she became the most beautiful maiden in the land and warriors from all around came to claim her hand in marriage. 

There were too many for her to decide, so Snow Bird invited all to come on an appointed day for a challenge. After meeting them at the base of Seneca Rock, she told them that the one who could climb to the top would be her new chief. Out of the many present, only seven were brave enough to take the challenge. Snow Bird led the way and one by one six of them fell behind. Only one brave remained and as he neared the top he slipped.

Snow Bird quickly thought that if he was the one most able to make the climb perhaps she should accept him. She then reached down and grabbed his hand to pull him to safety. When they returned to the base, her father, Chief Bald Eagle, told his new son-in-law that he would become his successor and the new chief of the tribe.

Rock climbing models

Rock climbing models

Nearby is a beautiful Discovery Center with information about all the activities, explanations regarding Seneca Rocks through pictures and scenes, and of course a gift shop. Interactive displays explain the geology of the area on a level that even children can understand. Films provide another method of explaining the beautiful Seneca Rocks and the surrounding Monongahela National Forest. Figures of mountain climbers scan an inside wall to show the gear needed and explain the dangers.

Lighted topography map

Lighted topography map

Especially interesting was a topographical map of the area with buttons that lighted up different special places to visit. It gave you a much clearer idea of where you were, had been, and were going. It was interesting that they had instructions also written in Braille.

Visit Seneca Rocks where you can climb to the top or sit on a bench at the base and admire the view.

Seneca Rocks it located east of Elkins, WV near the junction of Routes 33 and 55. Enjoy the beautiful scenery on your way there.

 

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Explore A Scenic Masterpiece Grand Canyon National Park

If “a picture is worth a thousand words”, then actually being there must be worth a million. Grand Canyon National Park, with the Colorado River’s wildwater rapids, is astounding beyond the imagination so it’s quite understandable for this scenic masterpiece to be listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Located in the Northwestern corner of Arizona, this massive canyon has been carved over millions upon millions of years. Once this was home to ancient civilizations and in more recent time home to Native American Indian tribes. Still today it is home to five of those tribes: Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, and Paiute.

Hopi legend says that ancestors once lived in caves and tunnels in the Grand Canyon.  This could actually be true! Not far near Peach Springs, Arizona on Route 66 are the Grand Canyon Caverns, 800 acres  of caves and tunnels underground, forming the largest dry caverns in the United States. Entrance today is through an elevator, which descends approximately twenty stories into the earth.  Perhaps the Hopi had a secret entrance.

The air here is pure and dry coming through about ten miles of limestone crevices from the Grand Canyon itself.  When taking a tour there, the guide mentioned that these caverns were designated as a nuclear fallout shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Some supplies still remained at that time…just in case. Sometimes my mind wonders if the whole inner earth looks like Swiss cheese.

Although larger than the mind can comprehend, this is a tranquil place filled with rare plant and animal life. Some of the elk here weigh as much as a thousand pounds so there is frequent warning: Never Approach Wild Animals.

One popular scenic view arises at Pima Point.  From this point, people say they can hear the Colorado River splashing as it echos off the canyon walls about a mile below.

There are many ways to see the canyon for the adventurous.  One is to descend the narrow ledges of the canyon on mule back.  Since the mule is considered to be the most surefooted of animals, many feel this is a safe way for exploration.  Others prefer wild water rafting down the beautiful Colorado River, which is partially responsible for the appearance of the Grand Canyon today.

Geologist John Wesley Powell led the first recorded expedition down the Colorado River the full length of the canyon starting at Green River, Wyoming. This Civil War hero, who lost his right arm at the Battle of Shiloh, filled diaries recapturing his astounding experiences on that 1869 three month expedition.  Here is an excerpt from Powell’s Canyons of the Colorado, a book written after his river trip:

“The walls now are more than a mile in height … A thousand feet of this is up through granite crags; then steep slopes … rise one above the other to the summit. The gorge is black and narrow below, red and gray and flaring above, with crags … on the walls, which, cut in many places by side canyons, seem to be a vast wilderness of rocks.

That is quite a trip as the canyon is 277 miles in length.  Variations in width make it even more unusual as it is only 600 yards wide at Marble Canyon, while at its widest, it is eighteen miles. The river moves quickly and has lots of rocks along the way so a trip down these rapids is a challenge.  The average depth of the Colorado River is about forty feet so a good idea to wear a lifejacket.

A great place to get an overlook of the canyon is from the Yavapai Observation Station, first located here in 1928. The view of the buttes and spires from this point is picture postcard perfect. What a great place to study the history and changes of the Grand Canyon.  Designed to blend in with the environment, the station was originally built of Ponderosa pine and Kaibab limestone. Here inquiring minds are told the complicated geological story of the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Every view is different at each time of the day. Sunlight as well as moonlight bring various sections to life.  During the busiest season, April – September, private vehicles are not now permitted along the popular West Rim section. Beautiful Maricopa Point on the West Rim is another favorite picture stop.  Also seen in the distance is the Orphan Lode Mine where copper and uranium were extracted during the 1950’s and 60’s.  October seems to be the perfect time to view the canyon at your leisure in your own vehicle. Then it is a tranquil place where you forget about the cares of the world and just relax in the arms of Mother Nature.  While driving some friends through the canyon on my last visit, the tranquility even captured a busy businessman, who never stops all day long. The only sound from the back seat of my car was zzz-zzz-zzz.

Grand Canyon National Park can be easily reached from I-40 exiting at either Williams – Route 64  or Flagstaff – Route 180. Both routes take over an hour to arrive at the South Rim. Pack a picnic lunch and plenty of bottled water to enjoy a relaxing day.

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