Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

Last month we headed out for our biannual trip to the NSSA National Competition near Winchester, Virginia. Originally, we planned to head out Thursday afternoon but the forecast called for significant rainfall that night and into the early hours of Friday morning.  Our arrival time at Fort Shenandoah would have put us there in the middle of the wet weather, so we opted to head out Friday morning and arrive just as the rain would be coming to an end.  It turns out the forecasters were correct in the sense it did indeed rain, but they were a little off in terms of the amount of precipitation delivered to our area of Virginia – over 4-inches of rain fell between midnight and 4-5 am!  Needless to say it was a fairly soggy drive with numerous small and major streams over their banks.  We stuck to the main roads as many smaller routes were under many feet of water.  When we arrived at the Fort, we were turned away by the authorities in charge because the pleasant stream which wanders through the Fort had become a raging torrent overnight and set it’s furry on the lower camping areas.  Over six feet of water inundated the flood plain, ultimately destroying over 40 campers and several cars.  At the time of our arrival water rescues/searches were still underway (thankfully no one was injured).  Phones calls from our friends already setup at our site informed us our camping area (located on top of the largest hill) had received many refugees in need of drier ground for their tents.  Hope held that we would be allowed into the Fort later that day, so we left in search of something to do while we waited.

We opted for two destinations, Cacapon Resort State Park and Berkeley Springs, both located about 30-minutes away in the grand state of West Virginia.  The former offers a multitude of activities, ranging from golf and lake swimming to horseback rides and hiking.  We already have taken advantage of the lake and horses, but with golf not our forte, we opted for a lunch at the picnic grounds and a visit to the nature center.  The waters in both forks of Indian Run were impressive, but thankfully not over their banks.  This afforded us with the chance to take a drive up to the overlook situated atop 2300-foot Cacapon Mountain once we finished up at the nature center.

After absorbing the grand views and with word the Fort was still locked down, we headed another ten miles west to the town of Berkeley Springs.  Originally established in 1767 as the town of Bath (the common reference to the name Berkeley Springs is derived from the name of the post office), the town boosts the claim of housing the country’s first spa, which is built upon warm springs.  Today, the town remains small yet offers many wonderful restaurants, art galleries, and quaint shops to accompany the main tourist draw of the springs.  These are found in the center of town in Berkeley Springs State Park and still accept bathers as well as those who just like to soak a toe or two.  The mineral waters flowing from the springs also attract many who fill jugs full of water to take home and those who seek a quite place to sit a spell.  The town itself has a very laid back vibe and makes for an appealing destination to escape the humdrum of normal, everyday routines.


A little way into Cacapon Park, there is an outcrop of Oriskany Sandstone (actually it is a dominant rock in the region as its resistance to erosion forms the area’s ridges). Deposited during the Devonian Period (~410-350 million years ago), the Oriskany is an important source for glass sands and, while quarried just west of Berkeley Springs, is probably best known around Corning, New York. Here in the park, sections of ridge and trail are covered in weathered-out sand and almost remind one of more coastal environments.


The swimming lake. The park was a depression era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project and like most of these projects was extremely well-built with beautiful stone work and lodgings. The sand and building stones are all from the Oriskany.


Cacapon Mountain overlook ~2300 feet up. At this point one can see West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.


After the 4.5 mile climb, Moby enjoyed some rest and the view.


Downtown Berkeley Springs, just a few of the shops, galleries, and coffee houses. The town has some great food and a fun, relaxed atmosphere as well.


Berkeley Springs State Park serves as the town’s center of sorts. They hold various gatherings here and built the public pool within the park’s boundaries. The building behind the gazebo is the modern bathhouse for the warm springs found here.


Warm Springs Run was flowing pretty quick after all the rain. Note the submerged bar on the left.


Some of the spring water is captured in these more modern cement enclosures. With an exit temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit, the water makes for a pleasant foot soaking on a warm day. In the modern bathhouse, they heat the water to 102 degrees and, like most spring water, the bath touts various health benefits derived from the mineral rich water.


Some of the spring water is diverted to a couple of the original buildings in the background.  Beyond them, the water joins Warm Springs Run. The front left building contains a few spigots were people can fill their water jugs to take their healthy water home.


I grew up in New Jersey where, among other people, George Washington spent a fair amount of time variously chasing or being chased by the British. I routinely joke that it is fairly difficult to turn around without seeing a sign declaring that “George Washington slept here”. Now I know where he took his baths!  All the original stonework is Oriskany Sandstone.


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