One Tank Trip: Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory

In Monroe County lies one of West Virginias hidden gems. After a quick one-mile hike, you are greeted by some of the most stunning views imaginable.

“We can see 50 miles, we can see the Peaks of Otter in Bedford Virginia which is 50 miles away, Buffalo Mountain in Floyd County, we can see the windmills on Beech Ridge in Nicholas County, I mean there is not too many places in West Virginia that you have a 365 degree view,” Rodney Davis, a Hanging Rock Volunteer said.

And it really is way up there, as a former fire tower, a current raptor observatory, and sometimes the perfect place to watch fighter jets fly by, you feel as high as the clouds

Along with the views, the observatory has a fake owl set up, which draws many species closer, giving you the closest look at these birds that you might ever see.

“The anticipation of seeing or having a good day, having a lot of close looks at bald eagles, or golden eagles, or having a little sharp shinned hawk dive at our decoy owl,” Davis said.

But if you come for the birds or the views, you will likely find that this picturesque tower, provides so much more than a good view.

“The people for me, that you meet up here, we have visitors every year, we get between 8 and 10 thousand visitors now. You always meet someone interesting, even in the offseason, even if you don’t see a lot of birds when you are here, I think the people that you meet is what keeps me coming back,” Davis said.

As you take in the sights with good people, you might see some raptors migrating south. They have been migrating along this route for over seventy years and it is due to our unique geology in the mountain state.

“West Virginia, if you look on a map has a sort of unique location. We are on two major routes. One of them is the Ohio River, you’ll see a lot of migration come through there, and if you look at the eastern part it’s all mountains. Everybody wants to come migrate through the mountain ranges because you end up with better thermal updrafts which make it a whole lot easier. You don’t have to flap so hard,” Wendy Perrone, the Executive director at the Three Rivers Avian Center said.

And when you are a bird flying hundreds of miles, letting the wind take over is pretty nice. But you might also see some things that don’t have to flap or use the wind.

“The military frequently runs plane through that valley so sometimes you can even count the rivets on the plane below you, that’s how high up you are,” Perrone said.

Being that high and seeing that far is something everyone should experience, and for those in the area, it is, and always will be so much more than just a fire tower or observatory.

“Its a landmark. People come up to ask their significant other to get married, they come up to picnic, they come up to spread loved ones ashes. I mean this has been a destination for people in Monroe County and all surrounding counties, it’s been a destination for a long time,” Davis said.

So whether or not you enjoy birdwatching, hiking, people or anything else, the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory is absolutely worth the tank of gas.

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