In Part Two, we had just begun to explore Fayette Station, West Virginia. Here Route 82 (one way from the north side of the Gorge and back up the other side) descends the mountain to the river then back up along the south side. Before the New River Gorge Bridge was built, Route 82 was how the Gorge was crossed at this location. At that time it was two way but for years now it has been limited to one way traffic.
Fayette Station is a busy place during the warm months. It is a center of activity for raft take-outs, rock climbing, viewing the bridge and for several waterfalls which are within walking distance. It also has a great rail fan location which I’ll get to later.
On the south side you can hike up the tracks less than a mile to get to Butcher Branch. There is a beauty of a waterfall there that is just a hundred feet or so from track side. If you visit there you may notice a short siding. This is still used from time to time for Maintenance Of Way equipment and perhaps a bad order car or so. At one time this siding extended all the way down river to past the New River Gorge Bridge. It was used for off-loading steel during the construction of the bridge.
If you make it as far as Butcher Branch, hike just a little farther and you will be at the old mining town of Kaymoor Bottom. When the mine was in full production about 500 people lived here. The old town is now fallen down and consumed by kudzu but in winter you can just make out the old yard tracks and a few foundations. Up on the bank next to the tracks the old coke ovens still stand, two hundred in all.
We return to the north side and proceed track east on Main 1. The next fifteen miles or so, from Fayette Station to Thurmond is rich in coal history and considerable remains are scattered along the way. For the most part these are best viewed during the colder months when weeds and critters don’t get in the way.
One of my favorite activities in the Gorge has always been simply walking the rails.”
As you explore the Gorge don’t forget the cliff tops. Many great overlooks are easy to get to and offer spectacular views.
There were once 50 towns in the Gorge, mostly small and associated with mining coal. Most had populations of less than 500 people. If you ever endeavor to hike in the Gorge you might wish to first read up on some of these places. As you walk through the Gorge it is amazing to realize all the activity and just plain living that went on here, all of which is now almost entirely consumed by time and the forest. You can read up on these places here: