The Trough is a canyon on a remote section of the South Branch of the Potomac River in Hardy County and Hampshire County in eastern West Virginia. Its steep, heavily forested walls and rocky outcrops limit access to visitors on foot or to those willing to paddle the river. The Potomac Eagle excursion train, operated by the South Branch Valley Railroad, affords stupendous views on its riverside route through the canyon.
George Washington referred to the canyon as “The Trough” after a surveying expedition into the area in 1748. Eight years later the canyon was the scene of a bloody battle of the French and Indian Wars, in which a band of Shawnee defeated a small group of European settlers in what became known as the Battle of the Trough.
Today the area is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The six-mile stretch is a favorite of canoeists and kayakers and with anglers in search of some of the best bass fishing in West Virginia. It’s not uncommon to see bald eagles soaring above the river, where they re-established themselves in the early 1980s after decades on the brink of extinction.
The canyon is created where the South Branch flows between two parallel ridges, Sawmill Ridge and Mill Creek Mountain, rather than meandering customarily across a wide valley, as it does upstream and downstream of the formation.
The Trough can be reached by following WV-50 to Romney, West Virginia, then turning south onto South Branch River Road, or by following US-250 north from Moorefield, West Virginia, and turning east onto Cunningham Road then north onto Trough Road. More detailed directions are provided in our guide to the South Branch Wildlife Management Area, which includes four public hunting and fishing preserves located throughout the canyon.
Nearby private outfitters offer canoe and kayak rentals and provide shuttle service back to the mouth of The Trough, about nine miles southwest of Romney.