A publication of Appalachian Voices

A publication of Appalachian Voices

Hidden Treasures #3 – West Virginia


Welcome to the third installment of our exploration of some of the most beautiful, off-the-beaten-path places in the Central and Southern Appalachian Mountains. In this issue, we hand picked some water-related hot spots perfect for late summer days: hikes, waterfalls, swimming holes and everything in between — areas that are perfect for dipping your toes, or your whole self, into the water.

Smoke Hole Canyon

Photo Jim Hopkins

Tucked away in the Monongahela National Forest, Smoke Hole Canyon is unlike any place you’ve ever visited. The South Branch of the Potomac River is sandwiched between North Mountain and Cave Mountain, creating a half-mile deep canyon with nearly vertical walls.

No one is certain where Smoke Hole got its name. Some say that Native Americans used the canyon for smoking meat, while others assume the name comes from the misty fog that frequently lies on the river. Smoke Hole Canyon’s long and varied history involves Native Americans, the American Revolution, Civil War and rumors of moonshine distilleries.

Boaters might argue that the best way to experience this astonishing place is to paddle the river. Kayaking and whitewater canoeing provide the best options to see sections that are set aside for non-motorized recreation and wildlife habitat. The Big Bend Campground is located nearby, where the stream is gentler and more popular for tubers and less experienced paddlers.

For those able to make the journey, however, Smoke Hole Canyon is a must-see. Whether you prefer fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing or camping, Smoke Hole has it all. — By Anna Norwood

More Info: Located in the Monongahela National Forest. Visit: fs.usda.gov/ website

Cranberry River

Photo by Thomas R. Fletcher

The Cranberry River stretches for 24 miles through Pocahontas, Greenbrier, Webster and Nicholas counties. The waters of this river were poisoned a few short decades ago due to acid rain, which killed the native and self-sustaining trout and many other forms of local aquatic life. Despite the serious acid rain damage, Cranberry River was brought back to health thanks to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Trout Unlimited and the building of two crushed-lime treatment sites.

An 18.9-mile trail follows the banks of the Cranberry River, and striking leaf displays and cool temperatures make for a perfect backpacking trip in autumn. Today, Cranberry River ranks as a top fishery, surrounded by serene and elegant forest. This river is a great location for trout fishing, hiking, swimming and camping, and it reminds us that there is hope for unhealthy streams and rivers. — By Anna Norwood

More Info: Located in Pocahontas County. Visit: troutu.com/streams/cranberry_river_west_virginia

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