Also known as the Tug Fork, the Tug Fork River is a 159-mile tributary of the Big Sandy River that drains parts of the Cumberland and a small part of the Allegheny region in southern and southwestern West Virginia.
The river rises in southern West Virginia in McDowell County near the Virginia state line approximately 15 miles west of Bluefield, West Virginia. Its source is on Big Stone Ridge near Jenkinjones, West Virginia, the southernmost extent of Great Flat Top Mountain and the Allegheny Mountains. From there, the river meanders northwestward in a narrow valley through rugged lowlands near Welch, West Virginia, and into the Cumberland Mountains, where, in Mingo County, it forms the state border with Virginia and Kentucky. At Fort Gay, West Virginia, in Wayne County, it joins the Louisa Fork to form the Big Sandy River.
History of the Tug Fork River
The origin of the name Tug Fork is lost, though two possible sources are derived from native histories and prehistories. According to some sources, the name is derived from the Cherokee word “tugulu,” which refers to the forks of a stream. American toponymist George Rippey Stewart proposed that in 1756 a small army of Virginians and Cherokees raiding Shawnee settlements roasted and ate “tugs” of buffalo meat along the river.