By December 8, 2017 Read More →

Bluestone Water Trail in the works

By GREG JORDAN

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON, W.Va.  — Four wheelers and motorcycle enthusiasts heading for the Pocahontas Trail, Mercer County’s branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, continue to boost the county’s tourism industry, but studies continue on finding a watery route for tourists who love kayaks and canoes.

In August, the Mercer County Commission started discussing ways to open up the Bluestone River for kayaking by cleaning it up and finding places where boaters can reach the waterway. County Commissioner Bill Archer is scheduled to report to his fellow commissioners soon on the Bluestone River Water Trail’s progress.

“We’ve been meeting regularly, and this would be the third meeting of our association,” Archer said Thursday. “We call it the Bluestone Water Trail Group.”

Archer said that the group’s members spoke Monday with Nick Millett, a biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, about the kayaking project and visited a potential site on Gardner Road for an education area.

“We looked at some water trail potential at Brushcreek and we went to potential launch areas on Eads Mill Road down to Brushcreek Falls,” Archer recalled. “He was really impressed by the canyon. The canyon going down to Brushcreek Falls is beautiful. You can only access it by water.”

Files and papers concerning land along the river’s banks were on Archer’s desk.

“Today we’re doing additional research on deeds, and we were able to learn that the county owns a 32-foot strip of land that traverses a 160-acres site that was the railroad bed for a narrow gauge railroad on the Bluestone Lumber Company property,” he said. “The company acquired it in 1918. What makes those water trails really enticing is to have a hiking and bicycle trail to accompany it. And there’s already the private sector business there, Brushcreek Falls RV Resort and the 304 Speedway.”

Millett provided the Bluestone River Water Trail group with several state contacts which could lead to grant funding, Archer said.

“I was able to get our foot in the door with our applications with the (state) Division of Highways for our water trail,” he stated. “It’s exciting. Day by day, things are happening on it. All this stuff, it’s a lot of work and a lot of research involved.”

Tasks such as cleaning out trash and other debris would have to be accomplished along with locating launch sites for kayaks and canoes. Sites near the Jimmy Lewis Lake area at Pinnacle Rock State Park through the Bramwell area are being considered along with areas near Camp Creek State Park, Archer said. A water trail could go all the way through Mercer County from the Virginia border to the Pipestem area and Bluestone State Park near Hinton.

 Having a river suitable for kayaking would create opportunities such as businesses offering kayak and canoe rentals and services which transport boats, Archer said.

“This has a real potential to change the tourism landscape of Mercer County,” he concluded.

Executive Director Jamie Null of the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau said when the idea was first introduced that the hobby of kayaking is growing. People often purchase kayaks, so offering a local waterway suitable for them would encourage hobbyists to enjoy their craft locally instead of traveling out of the area. Kayaking would also offer more things for ATV tourists to enjoy when they arrive in Mercer County.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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