The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Southern West Virginia

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Southern West Virginia is a culturally and geographically distinct region of the U.S. State of West Virginia. Its extent -- and the definition of the terms northern and southern West Virginia -- are popularly debatable among West Virginia residents, though agencies have defined the region officially, largely as a result of its unique situation: amid some of the most-rugged terrain in the world. Beckley, WV, is the largest city in southern West Virginia as it is governmentally defined.

Southern West Virginia is popularly known for its coal mining heritage, which it shares with adjacent regions of eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. The mechanization of mining in this common area in the 1950s led to sharp loss of employment and a mass out-migration of skilled labor. As a result, mining areas continue to struggle with poor economic conditions.

However, coal mining is only of primary importance in the western counties: the eastern counties support few mines or manufacturing industries of any sort. Broad areas of rolling pasture are more common in the east, and tourism has intermittently served as a primary employer in there. In Fayette County, three white-water rafting outfitters ranked among the county's top ten employers in 2006. Apart from landscape and pleasant mountain climate, much of the increasing tourism trade can be attributed to the establishment of the New River Gorge National River and the completion of Interstate expressways 64, 77, and U.S. 19 and 119 in the late 1900s. Famous resorts in the easternmost counties -- Monroe County and Greenbrier County -- were the largest employers before the Civil War. The Greenbrier continues a tradition of more than a century as the top employer in Greenbrier County

Southern West Virginia is generally defined to include the following West Virginia counties: Boone County, Fayette County, Greenbrier County, Lincoln County, Logan County, McDowell County, Mercer County, Mingo County, Monroe County, Nicholas County, Raleigh County, Summers County, Wyoming County

Southern West Virginia is also a popular real-estate investment area, particularly in Fayette County, were several private master-planned communities have been established along the rim of the New River Gorge National River near Fayetteville, WV and at The Greebrier at White Sulphur Springs, WV.

West Virginia residents habitually note the differences in cultural and geographic regions of West Virginia, notably that of the northern and southern Mountain State. Some scholars have demarcated a division in culture in which southern West Virginia as defined roughly as the region in southern West Virginia defined largely by the watersheds of the the Kanawha, Guyandotte, and Big Sandy rivers and their tributaries, including the Elk River, Bluestone River and Greenbrier River. Commerce through this area was strongly associated with the South and the lower Ohio Valley. Culture in this region can be strongly Southern in influence. Northern West Virginia, conversely, is drained largely by rivers that connect inhabitants with the Northeastern U.S., chiefly through the Potomac River, Monongahela River, and Little Kanawha River and their tributaries.

The Southern West Virginia Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), the official tourism-marketing association for the southern state, generally represents Fayette County, Nicholas County, Raleigh County, Summers County, and Wyoming County.

External Link: http://www.newriverwv.com/