The West Fork River is fast becoming one of the state's most exciting destinations for kayak fishing, according to a spokesman for a river-restoration organization hosting its second annual float trip June 1.
"I don't think most people realize what we have here," says John Ciesla, president of Guardians of the West Fork, which launched its mission to restore water quality on the river in the 1990s.
Despite its pastoral appearance, the valley was home to some of the first coal mines in northern West Virginia, but thanks to the efforts of the Guardians, their partners, the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection, and the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources, it's now a destination for anglers and kayakers.
"The WVDNR studied the stream after three dams were removed in 2016 and found that the state of the fishery was now excellent," Ciesla said.
Thanks to the increased popularity of flatwater kayaking and the availability of kayaks, anglers and paddlers alike are discovering the stream, which wanders 75 miles from Stonewall Jackson Lake near Weston to its mouth on the Monongahela River at Fairmont.
"This explosion of kayaking has opened the river to a lot of people and is affording them the opportunity to get out on the water."
Ciesla said the stream is a habitat for all primary fishing species in West Virginia as well as freshwater mussels and a species of lamprey.
As well as passing through scenic farmland, it also courses through eight municipalities and three counties with which the guardians are working to promote assets such as restaurants and attractions that will appeal to boaters.
The June 1 float to raise money for river restoration launches at 10 a.m. at Good Hope and ends six miles downstream at West Milford, where guests may join in a community celebration. Registration will begin at 8 a.m.
A May 31 celebration and boat drop-off will also be held at the Veteran's Administration Memorial Park at Clarksburg from 4-8 p.m.
For more information or to register, go to Eventbrite.com and search “Float The Fork” or call 304-627-1019 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Facebook page for the West Fork Water Trail.