In the Greenbrier River Valley near Lewisburg, Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park marks the site of the last significant Civil War battle to take place in West Virginia.
In November 1863, Confederate and Union armies clashed there as federal forces attacked to gain control of the Virginia-Tennessee Railroad and the Shenandoah Valley. Groups visiting the park can learn about the battle and walk trails dotted with cannons and historical markers. The park’s superintendent can give guided tours through the battlefield with advance arrangement. A museum at the site gives further background about the area, the battle and its place in the greater action of the Civil War.
The battlefield is one of 300 sites on the Civil War Discovery Trail, which highlights battlefields, historic homes, railroad stations, cemeteries and other Civil War sites throughout 16 states.
Throughout the early 20th century, the small municipality of Cass boomed as a lumber mill town. Today, groups that visit the town can take a ride on the Cass Scenic Railroad, which is operated by the state park service.
The railroad was laid in 1901 to help transport lumber to the mills in Cass, and the original steam locomotives used on the line now haul cars full of sightseers up and down the tracks. Many of the old flat logging cars have been rebuilt as passenger cars and take groups on scenic excursions through the mountain wilderness.
The journey begins in Cass, where the restored company house is now available for overnight accommodations. Groups visit the company store and the museum, which gives an overview of the railroad’s history, before boarding the train for a trip to Whitaker Springs, where locals have re-created the living quarters and equipment used by loggers in the 1940s. Groups can opt to end their trip there or continue to Bald Knob, the third-highest point in West Virginia.
Coal Mine Adventure
Coal mining has been an important industry in West Virginia for more than a century, and numerous attractions in the town of Beckley give visitors a look at the mining heritage in the area. Perhaps the most exciting for groups is the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, where visitors get to explore a decommissioned coal mine with former mine workers.
A trip to the Beckley mine takes visitors 1,500 feet beneath the hillsides of New River Park. Authentic train cars formerly used to transport workers now take groups into the old working areas of the mine. Along the way, guides give information about the historic equipment that visitors see in the mine, as well as the advancements that took the industry from early hand-loading techniques into the modern era.
Groups with an interest in the area’s coal history can also tour the early-20th-century coal camp buildings at the site, which include the company house, the superintendant’s home, a church and a school.