West Virginia has more scenic beauty than most of us will ever be able to take in. Every time I trek into our Wild and Wonderful playground, I find something I never noticed before. Sometimes it’s only a small detail, but other times it’s major. I normally wind up saying to myself, “How the heck did I miss THAT?”
This past weekend was a prime example of one of those major spots I’ve always overlooked. I was driving down Route 28 when it happened. I glanced off to the left and noticed an unusual rock formation. I made the comment to my wife about a house along the road having quite a view out their back door. The formation had a name, Champe Rocks. The rocks seemed to taper downward on either side. They ended at the base of the mountain in an almost perfect natural gateway into the mountains of the Spruce Knob/Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area.
The craigy bluffs extend from Champe’s Knob. I did a little research and learned they are a popular attraction for rock climbers. However, they are rarely climbed because there is no public access to them. Although they are in the National Forest, the area immediately at their base is private property and one would be trespassing to access them.
The rocks are formations of white/gray Tuscarora quartzite, which is common in the region for all of the well known rock formations. They are named for Sergeant John Champe. Champe was ordered by General George Washington to capture and return traitor Benedict Arnold from the protection of the British.
Champe became a double-agent during the Revolutionary War after he was handpicked by Washington and Major “Light Horse” Harry Lee for the mission. He “defected” to the British and established himself in a position to capture Arnold, until Arnold changes his plans at the last minute and the mission failed. Champe settled near the rocks after the war and is buried nearby.
Nearby Seneca Rocks gets a whole lot more P-R and is a far more celebrated state landmark. I’ve driven Route 28 from Seneca Rocks to Petersburg a hundred times since I’ve lived in West Virginia and never noticed the site. Champe Rocks is just another of those hidden gems you’ll have to discover for yourself as you travel our wonderful Mountain State.