Coal River

Coal River, Boone County, Hatfield & McCoy Region
Coal River

The Coal River is a tributary of the Kanawha River that drains part of the Cumberland Mountains region of south-central  and south-western West Virginia (WV). Its drainage area is about 900 square miles. The Coal River rises in western Raleigh County at the junction of its Marsh Fork and Clear Fork, flows northwest across Boone County and Kanawha County, and enters the Kanawha River at Saint Albans, WV. Two significant cataracts, the upper and lower falls, are roadside scenic areas. The lower river is protected as a public recreational waterway, wherein many natural and cultural resources have been preserved and interpreted.

History of the Coal River

The Coal River has provided as a transportation route through the mountainous terrain of southern West Virginia since prehistoric humans arrived in the region. Abundant timber harvested along the stream was transported to the Kanawha Valley during floods. John Peter Salley, credited with the discovery of coal in West Virginia, prospected along the river in 1742. Investors were enticed to the region in the mid-19th century because of the availability of cannel coal along the lower river.

Coal River Communities

From sources to mouth, the following select cities, towns, and villages are located on or near the Coal River.

Fairdale, WV (Marsh Fork)
Saxon, WV (Marsh Fork)
Arnett, WV (Marsh Fork)
Rock Creek, WV (Marsh Fork)
Dry Creek, WV (Marsh Fork)
Montcoal, WV (Marsh Fork)
Clear Creek, WV (Clear Fork)
Ameagle, WV (Clear Fork)
Colcord, WV (Clear Fork)
Dorothy, WV (Clear Fork)
Whitesville, WV
Sylvester, WV
Orgas, WV
Seth, WV
Bloomingrose, WV
Racine, WV
Peytona, WV
Ashford,, WV
Alum Creek, WV
Tornado, WV
Saint Albans, WV

Name Origin

The Delaware Indians named the Coal River “Walhondecepe.” It was renamed in the 18th century by explorer John Peter Salley, who found coal along its banks.

Regional Information

Information on lodging, dining, and recreation on and near the lower Coal River below Alum Creek, WV, may be found in our guide to travel in the Metro Valley Region, in western West Virginia. Information for the upper river may found in the Hatfield & McCoy Region in southwestern West Virginia.

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