Canaan Valley is someplace special.

So special that approximately 17,000 acres are part of a national wildlife refuge.

Long loved by naturalists, it was saved from becoming a hydroelectric project proposed nearly 50 years ago.

Today folks of all ages can take advantage of boardwalks to get closer to the wetlands’ unique flora and fauna.

How many other places got their name based on its beauty?

Explorer George Casey Harness is said to have been so impressed that he cried out, “Behold the Land of Canaan” when visiting the Tucker County landmark in the mid 1700s.

Whether it turned out to be the biblical promised land can be debated.

It’s unique natural characteristics are undisputable.

This oval, bowl-like upland valley is home to the Blackwater River headwaters.

It has the largest shrub and bog wetland complex in the southern Appalachians.

That includes a patchwork of 23 wetland types, including high-elevation bogs, shrub swamps and wet meadows carpet the valley floor.

Much of the plant community is more typical of Canada, including Balsam fir, which grow well in the often damp, cold setting.

Freezing temperatures can occur throughout the year.

Cotton grass, a sedge normally found in Alaska and Canada, blooms in late August.

Sundew, a carnivorous plant that traps small insects, is found among the damp sphagnum moss communities.

Overall there are now more than 580 species of plants there, and it is home to an estimated 290 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Highland elevation woodlands provide habitat for threatened and endangered animal species.

Spruce forests are home to the threatened Cheat Mountain salamander which is found in only five counties in West Virginia. It was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1989.

Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 red spruce seedlings are being planted annually to increase the spruce forests necessary for recovery of the northern flying squirrel.

Endangered Indiana bats are found along its streams. Human disturbance, habitat loss and environmental contaminants have taken a toll on these bats’ population nationally.

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