Our rivers are important pathways that connect our past to our future. Float with us as we pay homage to some of our majestic waterways and the towns that embrace them.
Formed where the scenic New and Gauley rivers join, the Kanawha served early settlers as a pathway west to the Ohio River. Rich deposits of coal, natural gas, and brine became an economic engine for the state: Those raw materials and groundbreaking science gave rise here to the global petrochemical industry. The Kanawha’s once-lively steamboat culture is celebrated.
The Kanawha River drops some 15 feet in a wide cascade at Kanawha Falls, in Fayette County. About two miles west of Gauley Bridge on U.S. Route 60, you’ll find the Kanawha Falls pull-off and public fishing access and a postcard-perfect view. Take your kayak to enjoy a paddle with the froth and mist of the falls as your backdrop. For a quick side-trip that will balance out your time at the low, wide falls, head just three miles east on Route 60 to the pull-off for Cathedral Falls—at 60-plus feet, one of the state’s highest and most picturesque.
Unlike cities that occupy just one river bank, Charleston occupies both sides of the wide Kanawha River and loves it. The Elk River meets the Kanawha here, so Charleston is a city of bridges and riverscapes, and photographers capture reflections of city lights and the state capitol building from every angle. Spring through fall, people head to Haddad Riverfront Park on the banks of the Kanawha for music and festival fun. In 2022, the beloved Charleston Sternwheel Regatta returned July 4 weekend after a 14-year hiatus, and, in December, the Lighted Boat Parade is a sparkling celebration of the winter holiday season.
Coal River Walhonde Water Trail
Explore 88 natural and restored river miles on the Little Coal, Big Coal, and Coal rivers, which empty into the Kanawha at St. Albans. Better yet, join the 12-mile Tour de Coal float in June is a wildly popular fundraiser and celebration of the rivers.