Around two years ago, the new and improved High Knob Lookout Tower was opened to the public. The structure replaces an older tower that stood for decades atop the 4,200 foot summit in Virginia’s Wise and Scott counties until being destroyed by an arsonist in 2007. Like the old tower, though, the new vantage point offers a sweeping view of most of the southern half of the Appalachian chain, from the Appalachian Plateau in West Virginia and Kentucky to Roan Mountain and the Great Smokies on the Blue Ridge. Five states in total can be seen on a clear day, and it’s become typical to see license plates from as many states traveling the road to the summit on warm-weather weekends since the new tower opened.
Up until this point, though, visitors to the new tower had to interpret the summit themselves, since little signage existed to guide visitors around the mountain and its sweeping view. That’s all changed recently, however, thanks to the hard work of Noah Huff, a local resident and member of Boy Scout Troop 301 in Coeburn, Virginia. Huff has built an informational kiosk for the tower as part of his path to becoming an Eagle Scout…and it’s an impressive piece of work. Situated right at the beginning to the trail up to the new tower, the kiosk greets visitors with an array of maps and educational content through a partnership with the Jefferson National Forest’s Clinch Ranger District. (If you’re a subscriber to the Coalfield Progress, check out the full story on Noah’s work here.)
UVa-Wise students have also indirectly contributed to the content featured on the new kiosk. At the lower left of the kiosk’s middle panel, visitors can find a QR code and web address for a free interpretive website for the Knob, developed by the 2015 Appalachian Natural History class at the college. The website features interactive snapshots of various views from the tower, with each highlighting major landforms visible from the summit (towns, mountains, valleys, etc.). Users can click on the names of these features and learn more about what they’re seeing, including the historical and ecological significance of the view.
If you’re out on the mountain this week, make it a point to drive up to the tower and check out the new kiosk along with the view. If you’d like to open the interpretive guide to the view from the tower at home, you can also access it at this link.