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315. Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory, Monroe County, West Virginia

This hawk watch in southeastern West Virginia is located within Jefferson National Forest.

My first visit to the tower at Hanging Rock was in 1974. At that time, the hawk count was being done by the “three Georges and Ken.” George Flouer lived near the tower and was a member of the Brooks Bird Club. He convinced George Koch, George Hurley, and Ken Anderson, members of the Handlan Chapter of the Brooks Bird Club, to come from Charleston on weekends in September to conduct hawk counts. They were my mentors and turned me onto raptor watching.

One September afternoon, I arrived at the tower to find George Hurley lying on his back on the tower deck. He said, “Thank God you are here, Jim. Take that section of the sky and start counting.” The sky was full of Broad-wings. We had well over a thousand birds fly over.

Hanging Rock is a special place. The name comes from the way the sandstone juts at an angle toward the sky. You can perch on the rocks, throw a leg over either side of the top of the ridge, and look to the ridge and valley of the Appalachians to the east and the Appalachian Plateau to the west. I have been there when the weather was very comfortable, very hot, cold enough to freeze your coffee in the cup, in snow, rain, and fog so thick you can barely see 2 feet in front of your face. Come prepared! 

Find detailed directions to the observatory here

315. Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory, Monroe County, West Virginia

Directions

To reach the observatory, park in the lot for Allegheny Trail on County Rt. 15, then hike about 0.8 miles to forest service fire tower at the top of Peters Mountain.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
37°30’15.91″N 80°27’11.20″W

Habitat

Mountainous ridge and forest.

Terrain

Trail is steep and rocky in places. Hike to the top of Peters Mountain takes 20-40 minutes.

Birds

Turkey and Black Vultures, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, Red-tailed, and Broad-winged Hawks, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel. Uncommon: Northern Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered and Rough-legged Hawks, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon. Non-raptors: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Tufted Titmouse, swallows, sparrows, warblers, Scarlet Tanager.

When to go

Tower open year-round. Peak raptor migration from mid-August through November.

Amenities

No electricity or running water. Outhouse.

Access

On public land within Jefferson National Forest. No fees. Park in lot for Allegheny Trail on County Rt. 15, then hike about 0.8 miles to forest service fire tower at the top of Peters Mountain.

Tips

Bring binoculars, drinking water, food, sunglasses, an extra layer of clothing, sunscreen, hat, and field guide and wear comfortable hiking shoes.

For more info

Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory

 

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Jim Phillips

Jim Phillips is the former chief counter at Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory and a past member of the West Virginia Bird Records Committee.

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