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Your Guide To The Mountains of Maryland, Pennsylvania & West Virginia.


Seneca Rocks New 
Discovery Center Opens

Standing sentinel over the North Fork River, rises Seneca Rocks, a 900-foot crag of Tuscarora Sandstone. Perched at the base of the Allegheny Front, where the Appalachians roll upwards of 4,000 feet above sea level, the rocks have attracted travelers for hundreds of years.

The magnificent beauty of the cliffs and surrounding area attracted congressís attention in 1965, when they designated the Spruce Knob- Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. This 100,000 acres of the Monogahela National Forest land was set aside for its cultural, educational, and recreational opportunities.

In 1978, a visitor center was built at the base of the rocks to serve the growing number of travelers to the area. Housing interpretive displays and information about the Potomac Highland region of West Virginia the center was an instant success and attracted large crowds throughout the travel seasons. Fourteen years later in 1992, the center burned down.

The National Park Service recognized the need to reconstruct a center at the site. It temporarily moved in office trailers to house the center. A new building was in the planning stage to be located on higher ground across Seneca Creek. In 1996 an archeological survey at the site of the new center turned up some history altering evidence. Theories about pre-historic Native Americans had suggested that this part of West Virginia had long been used as a travel route, but was never settled permanently. The dig had proven that two separate communities, 1100 and 900 years ago erected self-sustaining villages at the site. This caused architects to alter the location of the planned center as well as the parking area, to preserve unexcavated land at the village site for future surveys.

The construction of the new $5 million center was completed in the autumn of 1998. Designed by Susan Maxman Architects of Philadelphia, PA. The new building features materials prevalent in the North Fork Valley such as a river rock facade, a sloping metal roof recognizable in many of the original farms in the valley, as well as a window wall facing the rocks, bringing the outdoors in.

The new Seneca Rocks Discovery Center will celebrate its grand opening this summer when its permanent exhibits, designed by the USFS, USDA Designs, and the Friends of Seneca, arrive. Visitors will then be able to experience hands-on rock climbing techniques, walk through a replica of a Native American dwelling, learn more about the environment, or plan a trip to other National Forests.

An estimated quarter million travelers are expected to visit the center annually. Opportunities abound for visitors to enjoy learning about traditional Appalachian Folk Art as artists will demonstrate their work each weekend.

Furthermore, folk art classes will be offered by the Monongahela Institute in the Discovery Room at the center. The non-profit institute is modeled after similar programs at Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks. It will feature introductory seminars on subjects ranging from wilderness survival to basket weaving. Classes will vary from half day lessons in the busy summer months to week-long seminars in the off season. Tuition from the institute will offset costs and help keep the Discovery Center in use throughout the year.


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