Conley Hill

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Conley Hill, in the center distance, rises through the fog at the mouth of the New River Gorge at Gauley Bridge, WV.

Conley Hill, in Fayette County, West Virginia, is a steep-sided ridge that overlooks the confluence of the and rivers at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. The hill overlooks the confluence and lake that forms behind Kanawha Falls and the northwestern end of the New River Gorge.

The hill ascends as a steep-flanked ridge northwest of the town of Gauley Bridge, rising between the valleys of the Kanawha River and Scrabble Creek, a tributary of the Gauley River. The ridge is representative of the terrain of the Cumberland Mountains region of southwestern West Virginia and western Kentucky. The Cumberlands is a range within the Appalachian Mountains.

Conley Hill has figured significantly in local history. Native Americans who lived in villages along the river were familiar with the hill, and native artifacts such as arrowheads may be found. European explorers opened a trail along the Kanawha River that bridged the Gauley at its mouth. It was part of one of the few easy routes across the Appalachias. IN the early 1800s, it became a Virginian toll road known as the "James River and Kanawha Turnpike," The bridge over the Gauley spanned the most significant river over which the road crossed between the river's mouth and the James River.


Conley Hill rises behind Gauley Bridge, c. 1910.

The Union established a camp on Conley Hill during the Civil War to protect the bridge that crossed the Gauley there, one of the most significant river crossings in the part of the country. The bridge was destroyed twice during the conflict.

The hill was deforested during the war when wood was in high demand and was, after that, maintained as pasture. The peak earned the name “The Sugarloaf” as it resembled a rounded conical mound of the kind into which sugar in stores was often molded.

In the late 1920s the hill came to be owned by entrepreneur Charles A. Conley, who moved to the region during the Industrial Revolution. His home place sits on the hill above the . Conley served as sheriff and established many commercial enterprises and built many buildings in the town, including the Conley Hotel and the Conley movie house.

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