The new Elk River Trail in Clay County is bringing business and recreation to an area that’s running on steam.
State parks are welcoming a record number of guests this year, and now, Clay County lays claim to its very own, the West Virginia State Parks–managed Elk River Trail.
At the Braxton–Clay county line, you’ll find Duck, a quiet community along the Elk River, and the easternmost trailhead of the new Elk River Trail. Until 1985, the Elk River Coal and Lumber Company operated a railroad line through Duck, and the Elk River Trail is made from its remnants.
Bright Enterprises is pulling up tracks and laying down limestone along the river between Duck and Clendenin. Today, 28 miles of the 74-mile trail is complete, from Duck to the Middle Creek spur, just beyond Hartland. Put the river on your left and trek through the heavily forested mountains of Clay County.
The Elk River Trail’s combination of rail and water trails creates an array of recreational opportunities easily accessible off of Interstate 79 such as hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and boating. At Clay, one of the trail’s four access points, you’ll find Clay Yak Rentals, which offers tube and kayak rentals on the Elk. 276 Procious Maysel Road, Clay, 304.619.8047, clayyakrentals.org, @ClayYakRentals on Facebook
Or, head east along Buffalo Creek, where you’ll find Buffalo Creek Rail Rides. Pedal rail bikes or ride in an open rail car along the first six miles of the scenic Buffalo Creek and Gauley Railroad line. Stops include The Devil’s Sawmill Waterfall, the former rail town of Adair, and a crystal-clear swimming hole. 867 Buffalo Creek Road, Clay, 304.618.7992, buffalocreektrail.com, @BuffaloCreekRailRides on Facebook
On Main Street in Clay, you’ll find Clay’s only grocery store, Small Town Market, where Debbie Samples, owner of Elk River Baking Company, sells her fresh-baked bread and sweets. “My hope and prayer is that the trail will revitalize our community and bring lots of new businesses and visitors,” Samples says. For those who are looking for a new area to explore and peace and quiet away from other hikers and bikers, the Elk River Trail makes the grade. 112 Main Street, Clay, 304.444.3939