Discover the Lowest Point in West Virginia

Great Falls Park
iStock.com/Douglas Rissing

Written by Justin Zipprich

Updated: August 2, 2023

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Every state has a lowest place, and today, we’re talking about the lowest point in West Virginia. We’ll discuss the place, the history, and what to see if you decide to visit.

Where is the Lowest Point in West Virginia?

As is the case in many states, the lowest point in West Virginia is the Potomac River in Jefferson County at the border of Virginia. As is the case in many states, the lowest elevation is near sea level, and West Virginia is no exception. This point of the Potomac River in West Virginia is 240 feet above sea level. 

The next lowest points in West Virginia are Shepherdstown (400 feet above sea level), and Harpers Ferry (489 feet above sea level). West Virginia is a rugged state so there are many points where the elevation quickly rises and falls, with all of the lowest elevations near streams and rivers.  

History of the Potomac River

The Potomac River was the home of George Washington and he did a lot to make it what it is today.

The Potomac River is more than just the lowest point in West Virginia. It’s also a historic river that shaped the foundation of the United States of America. 

The Potomac River has moved over time. While it used to flow in West Virginia towards the St. Lawrence Valley, it has shifted over the last few thousands of years. It now flows towards the Atlantic Ocean. The river was explored by Spanish soldiers and then the Native Americans. The river shares a name with a tribe of Native Americans, the Patawomeke, who lived in the area. However, the meaning of the word “potomac” is unknown.

The river is most famous for its connection with former President George Washington who built a house along the shore at Mt. Vernon. He was instrumental in assisting with the process of improving the navigation of the Potomac and finding the best ways to transverse it. He led a crew of men who worked to remove debris and rock from the river. It was dangerous work, and many people were injured and died during the exhaustive project. 

Once it was complete, the Potomac River was instrumental in allowing boats from point to point and increasing the trade between the west and east.

Fun Facts About the Potomac River

There’s a ton of amazing history associated with the Potomac River. We have composed a list of some of the most interesting tidbits.

Facts About the Significance of the River

  • The Potomac River is instrumental in serving drinking water to a majority of the population in the District of Columbia and Washington Metro area.
  • The river passes through four states: Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
  • This river is known as “The Nation’s River” because it was so pivotal during the Civil War.

Unique Details About the Water

  • The river is immediately recognizable by its bright green water.
  • Just over 54% of the river is forested, but only 14.1% of the land alongside the river is developed.
  • The Potomac River is loaded with fish, and anglers come from around the nation to take advantage of the fishing opportunities.
  • Popular fish in the river include rockfish, snakehead, catfish, and small and largemouth bass. 
  • If you add up the river and all of its tributaries, the Potomac is technically just under 13 miles long.

Visiting the Potomac River and Harpers Ferry

Aerial view over the National Park town of Harpers Ferry in West Virginia with the church and old buildings in the city

The picturesque town of Harpers Ferry offers a lot of fun and great educational opportunities.

Taking a trip to the Potomac River is certainly worthwhile. It’s cool to see the lowest point in West Virginia, and there’s so much to do. 

After visiting the actual lowest point, you can have a lot more fun by going just 200 feet higher and visiting the historic town of Harpers Ferry. You could easily spend a week seeing the sights. From jet skiing and motor boating to amazing educational experiences, there’s a lot to take in. Here is a list of activities to consider:

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

You can’t visit Harpers Ferry without stopping by the historical park to see all the historic landmarks and buildings. Be sure to carve out some time because the park is huge, with over 20 miles of hiking trails for all skill levels. You can also go cycling and rock climbing.

The park is also made up of many different museums and attractions. The museums include the Industrial Museum, Civil War Museum, and the John Brown Wax Museum. Murphy Farm is worth checking out, as is the Harpers Ferry Park Association Bookshop.

Jefferson Rock

If you really want to be a part of history, you must visit Jefferson Rock. This is the vantage point from which Thomas Jefferson described the beauty of the river as it passed through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a rugged rock formation with amazing views of the surrounding area. You get there by walking up cool stone steps. Although it’s an easy walk, it’s not accessible to wheelchairs.

White River Rafting

Get your fill of adventure by going white river rafting down the waterway with the River Riders Tour Company. You can raft alone or with a group, and along the way, you’ll get a great history lesson and many opportunities for pictures. No need for concern, as there are rapids for different skill levels. Just enjoy the thrills.

Historic Churches

There are more than a few famous churches in the area, and you should try to check out at least one of them along the way. St. Peter’s Roman Catholic is a picturesque church that will blow you away. It’s located near Jefferson Rock, and it’s as beautiful inside as it is outside. The inside is open during weekends. 

Visit the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church, one of the first churches ever built in Harpers Ferry. In addition to being a place of prayer, it also doubled as a barracks and hospital during World War I. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged due to several battles, but you can still visit the preserved stone walls.

Antietam National Battlefield

If you really enjoy learning about history, stop by the Antietam National Battlefield, which was the scene of a bloody battle that eventually led President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in America. Visit this famous battleground and see some old cannons along the way.

True Treats Historic Candy Shop

Stop by this candy shop to stock up on the contemporary treats your family will love. You can find many historic candies from the 1500s and 1800s, along with sweats from the Bible and some of the first candies ever created. 

John Brown Wax Museum

Revisit the Civil War by visiting the John Brown Wax Museum where you can see figurines that recreate the famous battles that took place in the area. You’ll receive a timeline of the moments leading up to the battles, along with stories and 87 real-life figures. 

Ghost Tours

You can kick your vacation up a notch by taking one of the highest-rated ghost tours in the country. A guide walks you through 14 blocks of the Historic Lower Town of Harpers Ferry. You’ll hear stories about the mysterious activities that took place in the area. The tour is about two hours, and it’s family-friendly, so you can bring the whole clan!

Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum and Joy Line Railroad

Kids and adults alike must visit this educational museum that features awesome toy-related memorabilia. There are a ton of cool things to see and interactive exhibits. Best of all, there’s a miniature train that your kids can ride around the museum and through a tunnel. It only costs $4 to enter!

Ziplining Ride

If you want to see the lowest point in West Virginia from above, then take a ziplining ride over Harpers Ferry. You have a few options for zipline tours, but the River Riders Tour Company offers eight different zip lines that go over the forest and the Potomac River. One of them is 1,000 feet long! 

Places to Stay at the Lowest Point in West Virginia

If you want to make your visit a weekend trip, you’ll have many great places to call home during your stay. Some of the great lodging options include:

Harpers Ferry Hostel

Families on a budget can stay at the Harpers Ferry Hostel where you can rent standard rooms with dorm beds for $30-$80 per night. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also rent a tent for $15 per night.

Clarion Inn Conference Center

The Clarion Inn offers great mid-range price accommodations in a beautiful hotel that is an airport shuttle ride away from Harpers Ferry. You get a great bang for your buck with a pool, business center, and hot breakfast.

Hillbrook Inn

If you want a bit of luxury, then bring your family to the Hillbrook Inn. The inn has luxurious rooms, spa services, an award-winning chef, and an awesome restaurant. It’s a gorgeous place with a warm breakfast and well-maintained grounds. It’s only a 12-mile drive from Harpers Ferry.

Conclusion

After learning about the lowest point in West Virginia and the surrounding areas, you’re probably excited to visit the Potomac River and the town of Harpers Ferry. Add this lowest point to your bucket list for sure!


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About the Author

Justin Zipprich is a writer at A-Z Animals, where his primary focus is travel, state facts, pets, and mammals. Justin has been writing and editing animal content for over 7 years, though he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Western Illinois University, which he earned in 2005. As a resident of Texas, he loves discovering local animals and spending time with his wife and two kids.

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