Across the river from Thurmond, West Virginia, we continue our journey eastward along McKendree Road. After about two miles the road crosses the river at Stone Cliff. After crossing the river the road turns to dirt and gravel. At Stone Cliff camping is permitted and there are rest rooms but no shower facilities or electricity. A footpath from Stone Cliff up along the river is a nice area for spring wildflowers and after about one mile you come to Big Stony Creek which has some nice waterfalls when water flow is up (best time is in spring). I’ve never ventured beyond Big Stony Creek so I don’t know how far the path goes.
A word of caution about McKendree Road. Google maps correctly shows that it goes all the way east to Prince, WV but east of Thayer, WV the road quickly becomes almost impassable. Landslides, fallen trees and other such obstacles often block the way. It should be avoided unless you have a vehicle suitable for off-road. However, between Stone Cliff and Thayer the road isn’t too bad.
As you leave Claremont the road soon goes up along the sides of the hills. Access to the rails would require a considerable walk through the woods. At Thayer, however, a side road heads down to the tracks and a grade crossing leading to a parking area where river access is available. There is little in Thayer to see. Only about 10 or so people still live there and there are a number of abandoned houses and other structures. A few of the houses have seasonal occupancy due to the ease of river access.
As we continue east from Quinnemont we come to the ghost town of Glade, located about half-way between Quinnemont and Meadow Creek (MP 374). Glade had a population of about 70. Those pillars are all that is left of the bridge which once connected Glade to the town of Hamlet. Hamlet is also now a ghost town. Not much remains in either town except for a few scattered items and foundations of long gone structures. Across the river is Glade Creek canyon and the former location of the narrow gauge Glade Creek and Raleigh Railroad. It was strictly a logging operation. The former rail bed is now a fine hiking trail taking you over five miles into the beautiful canyon. The access to Glade Creek is by a five mile long dirt road which begins across the river from Prince, WV. Camping is available in multiple places.
The Richmond family has been in this area since at least the 1700’s. Before the railroad came (1873) merchandise came to this area by boat on the New River. Sandstone Falls (once called Richmond Falls) was a major obstacle. Boats were off-loaded above the falls, then the Richmond family moved the goods by road to below the falls where they were again loaded onto boats. Boats continued down river to Terry (just below Prince) where they were off-loaded and the goods then taken by wagon up Batoff Mountain to the plateau. Eventually the Richmonds built a race around the falls on the south side, the remains of which are still there. Water no longer flows through it but it contains standing water.
The north side view of Sandstone Falls is accessible only by boat or along the rails. It’s an easy walk and there are plenty of places to explore and just enjoy the view.
We have reached the eastern terminus of the New River Sub and the end of our journey. Here at Hinton the Allegheny Sub begins. Some real mountain railroading begins here and there are some really great ran fan locations between here and Clifton Forge, Virginia.
Even though this journey took six installments I still feel as though what I’ve given is a brief summary. The history of the Gorge is filled with far more stories than I’ve related and there are many great rail fan opportunities. Still, it’s been fun.
If you plan to explore the Gorge, or are just interested in its history I highly recommend you purchase a copy of the New River Atlas, by W.E. Trout. (Amazon lists this title as out of print, but it appears that copies are available on the Virginia Canals & Navigation Society’s website-ed.)
Hope to see you in the Gorge!
In Part Three we had just arrived at the Sewell Bridge. Here on the south side of the Sewell Bridge was the location of the western terminus of the Southside Junction. Most of the mining in the Gorge was “drift mining” – coal seams were exposed on the mountain slopes and all that required was building access up to the seam and then mining into it. Since the New River had simply interrupted the various seams, those on the north side were continued on the slopes of the south side. The Southside Junction was built to accommodate mining these other seams. The Southside Junction ran from here up to Dun Glen across from Thurmond, West Virginia.
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. Read more
In Part One we left off at Cotton Hill, West Virginia. As we move track east we soon come to Hawk’s Nest, only a couple of miles upriver from Cotton Hill. At Hawk’s Nest you step into the rich coal mining history of the Gorge. The 30 track miles from Hawk’s Nest to Quinnimont contain almost the entire history of New River coal. In the peak years early in the last century the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) serviced 75 mines along this stretch of river including the various branch lines that crawled up the several side canyons.
In 1872 Collis P. Huntington took an overnight float trip down the New River from Hinton to Hawk’s Nest to see where his railroad was going. By 1873 the line was finished. By 1874 the first branch line (Laurel Creek, Quinnemont) was open as was the first mine (Laurel Creek, Joseph Beury). Cutting ever deeper through the mountains, the New River exposed four coal seams world famous for high quality, high BTU coal. Read more