Kanawha Falls is located on the Kanawha River, visible from the Midland Trail, near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. The low-slung waterfall is only 15 feet high but about 2,100 feet wide and broken into a number of distinct sections. There is a low dam above the falls that divert some of the water into the hydroelectric power plant on the western shoreline, and in the area are numerous roadside waterfalls.
Kanawha Falls was first reached on September 17, 1671, by Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam, who, with Thomas Woods, had set out with an expedition to take possession of the Mississippi River valley in the name of the King of England. Woods died en route, but Fallam and Batts reached the falls, which they thought marked the break of the waters toward the South Sea. They laid claim to the Mississippi Valley and then went back home. Their visit was the only justification for the 60 years of warfare between the French and English which began with Fort Necessity and which ended with the Battle of Waterloo.
Later, the falls were a popular stopping point along the James River & Kanawha Turnpike. Aaron Stockton settled in the area circa 1812 and, by the 1830s, had opened an inn along the river. His inn, now called the Glen Ferris Inn, is still open for business. A hydroelectric power plant was constructed along the western shoreline of the falls for the Wilson Aluminum Company in 1899-1901, and the low dam above the falls that divert some of the water into the power plant creates a picturesque shallow lake.