Near this point the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike crossed the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River, going over Cheat Mountain at a high point of almost 4000 feet at White Top. The Shavers Fork forms a high elevation watershed on top of Cheat Mountain, making it the highest large stream in the East. The high elevation, cool temperatures and heavy precipitation create a climate in this watershed supporting a red spruce dominated ecosystem more akin to forests of Canada than the Central Appalachians. These once untouched forests provided habitat to now rare species, with a network of cold water streams and tributaries ideal for native brook trout. Following a half century of wholesale logging, the red spruce forests and the river are now rebounding, making the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River the largest block of red spruce forest south of the Adirondacks, and the premiere habitat for the rare West Virginia northern flying squirrel and the Cheat Mountain salamander.
The Civil War Fort at Cheat Summit is just west of here at the top of the mountain. Soldiers described harsh weather that plagued troops and kept the area largely unsettled and remote. Ambrose Bierce wrote about the mountain "with its shaggy pelt of spruce and firs."
The size, richness, and abundance of these red spruce forests attracted commercial investors in the 1880s, and from 1880 through the 1980s the area was severely impacted by logging, fires, railroad building, and mining. Today, much of the area is in public ownership.
The first bridge here was a 112-foot truss covered bridge with no arches in the design. Contracted in 1841 with builder Francis O'Neal, it was built of local red spruce timber, with pins of seasoned locust or white oak. A logging town boomed from about 1890 through the 1920s, but has now vanished.
Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Byway
Funded in part by Federal Highway Administration