Panorama Overlook is west along Rt. 9 approximately 3 miles from Berkeley Springs. Today, a pull-off provides a scenic view of three states and two rivers rated by National Geographic as one of the five best in the East. The scene also encapsulates America’s transportation history showing the C&O Canal on the Maryland side of the river and the B&O Railroad on the West Virginia side.
The overlook marks the end of the Cacapon Mountain which runs north more than thirty miles. Composed of Oriskany sandstone, it plunges nearly 1000 feet into the Potomac.
Higher on Cacapon Mountain, Prospect Rock (also called Cacapon Rock) offers the same spectacular view. It was a favorite day trip for visitors on horseback from colonial times to the early 20th century. Washington often rode here, fueling his vision of a way west. Today the unique rock formations may be reached by a 15-mile fire road and flat hiking trail across Cacapon Mountain accessed from Cacapon State Park.
“Rid with Mrs. Washington and others to the Cacapehon Mountain, to see the prospect from thence.” August 19, 1769
“Rid to Cacapon with Lord Fairfax, ye two Colo Fairfax’s, Mr. Kimble, Mrs. Washington, and Patsy Custis.” August 24, 1769.
George was not the only Washington who enjoyed the view from Prospect Rock. His nephew, Laurence Augustine Washington wrote of a memorable 1796 visit to “Bath, a celebrated watering place.” Laurence was a young man searching for a wife as were his companions at the springs.
“I arrived at Bath in the evening and found several of my acquaintances there, some of whom lodged at the same house I put up at. By one of them I was informed that most of the young ladies of the place were, the next morning, about to visit the Cacapon Rock, a rock of great resort from the summit of which one of the wildest, sublimest and most interesting views of mountain country interspersed with cultivated valleys and rivers, was to be seen, which our country afforded, rich as it was in scenery.
“When we arrived at the rock we found it crowded with the young,the gay and the thoughtless of both sexes. We approached to enjoy the beautiful prospect, for beautiful it is.”
Washington’s attention was soon distracted by the lovely Mary Wood whom he eventually courted and married. In 1820, Washington wrote this glowing report of their romance which began at Cacapon Rock.
“The lofty towering mountains which rose in proud and successive elevations over each other, until their blue and fading summits, which seemed to touch the very heavens, were lost in the azure of the distant retiring horizon the lovely valley at its immeasurable distance below our feet the solitary hamlets with their circling column of dense smoke, winding slowly up the mountain’s top the two beautiful rivers coursing their romantic passage through this enchanting vale.”
All this beauty fell by the wayside of Miss Wood’s charms.