“Juh-wiah-hanne” — a stream flowing in a contrary direction. From that word we get the “Youghiogheny,” a 134-mile long river that flows in a snake-like fashion through West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. At its northernmost point, it empties into the Monongahela River.
It’s interesting when you dig into the history of this river. You’ll typically uncover information dating back no earlier than the colonial era, learning about George Washington’s expedition of 1754, moving on to Braddock’s expedition of 1755, followed by the inevitable influx of settlers into the area after 1758. You’ll proceed to learn about the coal mining era of the 19th century and the concomitant logging craze that severely altered the landscape.
Neat information, for sure, and what else would you expect from a U.S. government-backed education?
However, it goes deeper, and the history of the Youghiogheny River also includes the Monongahela cultures. These were indigenous Americans of a wide-ranging settlement area of the Ohio River system that included the Youghiogheny as well as the Monongahela tributaries. The Friendsville site, for example, is a Monongahela village dating between 1000 and 1200 AD. It’s located on the western bank of the Youghiogheny River in Garrett County, Maryland.
Tens of thousands of artifacts have been recovered from this site in the past few decades, including limestone, shell, and hematite tempered pottery. Additionally, prehistoric artifacts have been recovered in the lawns of a few houses, and several Native American burials were found when a basement was dug for the construction of a building in 1946.
Of course, the Monongahela people (who were gone when the Europeans arrived) were probably saying the same thing: “Dig into the history of this area and you’ll be astounded!” Because really, who knows how far back it goes, though I assure you that it doesn’t quite start with Lieutenant Colonel George Washington.
Anyway, check out the Juh-wiah-hanne on your next journey through West Virginia, Maryland, or Pennsylvania. In my opinion though, Southwestern Pennsylvania (pictured here at Ohiopyle State Park) has some of the most beautiful sections… and the most incredible floral diversity. You might as well start here!