Coopers Rock is located within Coopers Rock State Forest in the Mountaineer Country Region of West Virginia. It overlooks the Cheat River Gorge with the Cheat River more than a thousand feet below. There are several different legends surrounding how Coopers Rock got its name. Perhaps the most famous is that it received its name after a fugitive hiding from the law hid near the spot that is now known as the infamous overlook. As a cooper by trade, he made barrels at his hideout and sold them to the locals.
Approximately 250 million years ago, sandstone deposits were thrust upward forming the sandstone cliffs you are standing on. Sandstone is a sedimentary rock and is composed of sand particles and can be found in variety of colors including tan, brown, yellow, red, gray and white. Sandstone layers are highly resistant to weathering and erosion because of it has a high quartz content. This is why the cliffs are near the top of the mountain and you don't really see any near the bottom near the Cheat River because those rocks are softer and more easily eroded.
Fractures are surfaces along which rocks or minerals have broken, resulting in two free surfaces where none existed before. Fractures are commonly caused by stress exceeding the rock strength, causing the rock to lose cohesion along its weakest plane. There are two main categories to describe fractures. Systematic fractures are roughly planar and are parallel to each other, while nonsystematic fractures are irregular and in some cases may be curved. When there is more than one type of fracture within rock, it is often referred to as a joint system. Fractures are often found along weak spots within the rock, and are primarily caused by frost action. During the winter, water may enter fractures within the rock, and when it freezes, it expands, the fracture becomes slightly larger. This process continues until the rock eventually breaks away.
- Examine the rock that you are standing on. Which type of fracture appears most common? Are you able to see any weak spots?
- Do you see any bedding planes? If so, is the thickness consistent or does it vary?
- How do you think Coopers Rock got separated from the rest of the cliff face?
- Upload a photo with Coopers Rock or the Cheat River Gorge.