In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Harpers Ferry, W.Va. is defined by its confluences. Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of two of the main arteries of the mid-Atlantic, the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River. The town is also located at the intersection of three states: Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. This unique location – two major rivers, Mason Dixon Line, etc. – also made Harpers Ferry a flashpoint during the Civil War and was the scene for John Brown’s famous raid on the armory there. Today, the tiny hamlet of around 300 permanent residents is part living museum of centuries of historic impact, part modern outdoor recreation hub. What was once the launch point for settlement of the Shenandoah Valley – the only ferry across the mighty Potomac – is now a center for active pursuits ranging from white water rafting to mountain biking to rock climbing. The Appalachian Trail also runs right through town, and is the location of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters. Obviously, the town has not lost its touch of being a central part of United States history.
All of these pursuits come together at the annual Harpers Ferry Outdoor Festival, happening this weekend June 14 and 15. Although the focus of the festival is primarily paddling oriented – it is summer after all! – all outdoor recreation activities are celebrated and encouraged, with the aim of promoting the healthy and peaceful enjoyment of the natural environment. To that end, all proceeds are donated to conservation groups including Friends of the Shenandoah, Save the Blackwater, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, and the Friends of the Cheat. Organized activities include the Tim Gavin Down River Race, Whitewater Rodeo, 5k trail race, whitewater film extravaganza, raft race, and kid friendly activities. There will also be a coordinated river cleanup and live music each day from local bands. Plus, you’ll be right outside downtown Harpers Ferry, where you may learn a thing or two about the robust history of the area and the town. It really is like stepping back in time, in a good way.
The best part of this event may be the price: $10 gets you a day pass for either Friday or Saturday ($20 for both), but that includes free camping on site. So hit up the Harpers Ferry Outdoor Festival this weekend to give a little back and have a whole lot of fun along the way.