Oak Hill, West Virginia

Oak Hill, WV (West Virginia), in Fayette County, was incorporated in 1905 and named for the region's first post office, which stood under a large White oak (Quercus alba) at nearby Hill Top, now about two miles to the south of the city's downtown. Oaks are prominent large trees in the area. The White Oak Country Club at Oak Hill is renowned for its large oaks.

A city of nearly 8,000 residents, Oak Hill is located on a plateau area west of the New River Gorge in southern West Virginia. The US-19 expressway runs north-to-south through the city. It has traditionally been a commercial center that served the surrounding coalfields but is now chiefly a residential community, part of the larger New River Gorge region, and it adjoins the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.

The Death of Hank Williams

Oak Hill is popularly known for its association with American musician and singer-songwriter Hank Williams. In the early morning hours of New Year's Day in 1953, William's driver, Charles Carr, stopped for gas en route to a concert at Canton, Ohio, and discovered Williams dead. Carr had last spoken to Williams near midnight while they stopped at an all-night restaurant at Bristol, Va. Details of the death, including the location of the service station at which they stopped at Oak Hill, are a subject of dispute.


Geography

Oak Hill is located at 37°58′58″N 81°8′43″W (37.982775, -81.145334). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.89 square miles, of which 4.88 square miles is land and 0.01 square miles is water.

Oak was settled in about 1820 on a tableland plateau between two watersheds. Tributaries of the New River drain the city to the east; tributaries of the Kanawha River drain it to the west.


Parks & Public Recreation

Bordering the national park, Oak Hill is part of one of the state's chief outdoor-recreation destinations. It is also home to Needleseye Park, a 283-acre preserve established for rock climbing and bouldering as well as hiking and wildlife observation. Whitewater rafting on the New River is a popular pastime accommodated by local outfitters. The near reaches of the Plum Orchard Lake Wildlife Management Area extend within three miles of Oak Hill to the southwest.

White Oak Rail Trail

The White Oak Rail Trail travels eight miles across the greater Oak Hill area, connecting the city with its cultural, educational, and recreational centers. A popular section of the trail approaches within a quarter-mile of the woodland, providing exceptional access for hikers and bikers. The trail is being extended as part of a state trail network to link Oak Hill with national park trails and the national scout reserve as well as population centers at Beckley and Fayetteville.

Needleseye Bouldering Park

Named for a narrow rock cleft that leads into a two-mile garden of cliffs and house-sized boulders, Needleseye Park protects more than 280 acres of woodland in east Oak Hill. The park is a popular destination for hikers, rock climbers, and birdwatchers. The park’s chief attraction is bouldering, a variation of rock climbing. Thousands of expert climbers visit the region annually to scale the cliffs that line the rim of the New River Gorge.

Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve

The home of the National Scout Jamboree and a high-adventure base for the scouts, the Bechtel National Scout Reserve annually hosts thousands of visitors to the region, including scouts and their guests. The reserve includes more than 14,000 acres adjacent to the national park. The 24th World Scout Jamboree in 2019 welcomed more than 45,000 visitors. The 17th Interamerican Scout Jamboree is planned for 2023.

Hunting Preserves

Two public hunting and fishing areas with a combined 10,000 acres of woodland are located within five miles of the city. Deer, turkey, and squirrel are the principal game. The Plum Orchard Lake Wildlife Management Area includes 202-acre Plum Orchard Lake, a popular destination for flatwater kayaking as well as fishing. The Beury Mountain Wildlife Management area conserves some of the most remote highland forests in the region. In addition to the two preserves, hunting is also permitted in season in more than 65,165 acres in the national park.

Outdoor Recreation Resorts

Seven outdoor adventure resorts are located in and near Oak Hill. All offer guided whitewater rafting tours on the New and Gauley rivers, and most include basecamps that accommodate cabins and camping and coordinate outdoor recreation adventures. Several offer canopy tours and zip line and adventure courses.


Education

Oak Hill boasts a multi-use campus on which its elementary, middle, and high schools and the county’s Institute of Technology are located. The campus is accessible to a large part of the population of the city by the White Oak Rail Trail. Several private schools within the Fayette County School District operate in the region, and homeschool programs are supported.

West Virginia University and New River Community & Technical College maintain campuses at Beckley, 20 miles to the south, and courses offered by Concord University and Bluefield State College are offered at the Irma Byrd Center nearby at Beaver. Appalachian Bible College is a drive of approximately 15 minutes south.


Location

Oak Hill is located on the US-19 expressway at highways WV-16 and WV-61. It is approximately six miles south of Fayetteville, West Virginia, 15 miles north of Beckley, West Virginia, and six miles north of the Bechtel National Scout Reserve at Mount Hope, West Virginia.


Map of Oak Hill, West Virginia


Regional Information

Oak Hill is located in the New River Gorge Region in southern West Virginia.