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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.