Coopers Rock State Forest gets its name from a legend about a fugitive who hid from the law near what is now the overlook. A cooper by trade, he resumed making barrels at his new mountain hideout, selling them to people in nearby communities. He lived and worked in the forest for many years.
During the Depression, between 1936 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built numerous structures in the forest, often using durable American chestnut wood from trees that succumbed to a blight that nearly wiped out the species. Eleven of these structures, including the rustic picnic shelters near the overlook, have been included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Coopers Rock State Forest is 13 miles east of Morgantown and 8 miles west of Bruceton Mills. Its 12,713 acres are bisected by Interstate 68. Although the forest serves as a recreation and preservation area, it has a wider range of uses. West Virginia's state forests also serve as areas of publicly owned land for forestry research, timber management, and watershed and wildlife protection.
The side north of Interstate 68, known as the WVU Forest, makes up the forest management area leased by the West Virginia University Division of Forestry for forestry research, teaching, and demonstration. To the south of I-68 is the main recreation area.
Bands of rockcliffs line the Cheat River Gorge and provide numerous overlooks. The centerpiece among these is the main overlook, which furnishes a panorama of the gorge and distant horizons. A maze of enormous boulders and cliffs fascinates hikers, and the trails are especially lovely in June when the rhododendron and mountain laurel are in bloom. Several trails wind through forest valleys and over ridges, and a number of creeks beckon the explorer. Glade Run is dammed to form a 6-acre pond that is regularly stocked with trout. The observant hiker can hear and sometimes see squirrels, chipmunks, hawks, owls, turkeys, turkey vulture, songbirds, fox and deer throughout the forest.
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