Observing site: Spruce Knob Mountain
Contact person: n/a
Telephone number: (304) 257-4488
Any restrictions (permit required, residency, etc.): none
Directions: Located in Pendleton county, WV (eastern part of the state) Nearby towns (very small) include Circleville, Cherry Grove and Riverton. Franklin, WV is located to the east near the intersection of Route 33 and Route 220. Route 220 runs up to the Pennsylvania/New York border and south well into Virginia.
From Riverton, WV, take Route 33 south for 2 miles and turn right onto Briery Gap road. Proceed 2 miles to forest road Route 112. Stay on Rt. 112 for approx 7-8 miles. Watch for signs to the Spruce Knob observation tower. Route 112 is a bit rough in places, with lots of switchbacks as you climb the mountain. Be careful. There is a parking lot at the summit, near the observation tower, which is a good location for setting up telescopes. Click here to create a map using Google Maps.
How are the sky conditions? The best that you will find anywhere east of the Mississippi. Extremely remote location and moderately high altitude (4860 feet) combine to give skies that are absolutely incredible when the weather is good. No light domes at all. The sky is black from horizon to the zenith.
Best horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): Very low cut-offs in every direction.
Worst horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off):
Comments from submitter: Spruce Knob is situated in eastern Randolph County in a remote part of Monongahela National Forest and is about a 4½ hour drive from the Washington area. This site is almost legendary to many east-coast amateur astronomers. Many have heard of it, but few have ever been there. It far exceeded my expectations. The stars in the sky are so numerous that it can be difficult to pick-out the major constellations. The Milky-Way shows tremendous detail to the naked eye. There is a primitive campground about 5 miles away at Spruce Knob Lake.
In the past year or so, the Gatewood camping area has become the preferred observing area rather than the summit which often has brutal winds. (see web page for more info)
A mailing list for people who observe at this site has also been setup. See: http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/spruceknob "
Observing site: Calhoun County Park
Address: West Virginia State Route 16
Contact person: Duane Poling (for purposes of renting the on-site barn; this is strongly recommended if you don't like sleeping outdoors)
Telephone number: (304) 354-6301 (Duane Poling), (304) 354-6398 (Roger Jarvis)
Any restrictions (permit required, residency, etc.): The gate may be locked in wintertime (call prior to your visit to obtain a key), and the park is closed during the November deer season.
Directions: From the North: Take I-77 south past Parkersburg to SR-14 (Exit 170). Follow SR-14 south for 14 miles through Elizabeth. Just on the other side of town, go EAST on SR-5 for 27 miles to Grantsville. In Grantsville, go south on SR-16 for 4 miles until you see a sign that says "Roadside Park". Turn left, and then make another immediate left. You'll see the "Calhoun County Park" sign right there. From Pittsburgh/Clarksburg/Morgantown: I-79 south to US-33 (Exit 99). Follow US-33 west to Glenville, then west on SR-5 for about 20 miles to Grantsville; see above directions. From Charleston/Beckley: I-79 north about 40 miles to SR-16. Follow SR-16 north for about 28 miles. The park's entrance will be about 2 miles north of the town of Mt. Zion, which includes a new high school and a drive-in theater. Click here for a map from Google Maps.
How are the sky conditions? The south and southeast are particularly dark, as you are looking straight towards the Appalachian mountains. On a really dry night, you can see stars INSIDE the Water Jar in Aquarius, and the Cygnus and Sagittarius Milky Way are vivid. The site is easily darker than most sites used for star parties in the Eastern U.S., but because only detailed maps (like Delorme) even show it, Calhoun County Park has largely remained an unknown. Read more about the sky conditions here.
Best horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): It all depends on where you set up in the park, but the parking lots near the pavillion and baseball field work best. (There is a security light near the pavilion but it has a manual control switch; please don't forget to turn it back on when done.)
Worst horizon (direction and approximate altitude cut-off): The north, on humid nights, has a slight glow from Grantsville, but it isn't objectionable and is barely noticeable on dry nights.
Comments from submitter: Having made a dozen trips to Spruce Knob it was only natural that I wanted to find a suitable spot in West Virginia for when the snow starts flying. I came across the site in July 2004 and was stunned; imagine making a checklist for what you'd want in an observing site and finding out someone already made it. Although it is a county park, don't let that fool you; it's huge by those standards. There are numerous places to set up (and they become readily apparent once in the park).
As an added bonus, there is a renovated barn on the premises which serves as a venue for community events. It can be rented for $20/person per night, money well-worth spending considering that it's climate-controlled. Most cell phones will work (at about half-strength on your signal), and if you dial 911, you'll be happy to know that Calhoun County EMS is just 1/2-mile further south on SR-16. Minnie Hamilton Hospital in Grantsville is just 5 miles away.