In the Monongahela National Forest near Hendricks and Davis, West Virginia, the Blackwater River boasts a series of stunning cascades.
In 1852, Philip Pendleton Kennedy ventured through the Canaan Valley and the Blackwater River’s upper regions. His observations in “The Blackwater Chronicle” remarked, “Perhaps nowhere else in our vast land has such breathtaking beauty been revealed.”
Today, the Blackwater and North Fork Blackwater Rivers echo Kennedy’s descriptions. The waters take on a tea-like hue, thanks to the tannins from the surrounding spruce and hemlock trees’ decaying leaves.
The North Fork winds past the towns of Thomas and Douglas. This area was previously the hub of the Davis Coal & Coke Company’s significant coal mining and coke production. Although it was a source of employment and vital mineral extraction, the environmental cost was immense. Acid mine drainage severely compromised water quality, leading to a once trout-rich river turning lifeless.
Recent efforts to revive the Blackwater River have seen some success in curbing acid mine drainage. However, high alkalinity persists, staining the river’s rocks a distinct orange. This serves as a stark reminder of the nation’s evolving environmental safeguards.
Yet, the Blackwater River and its tributaries remain some of West Virginia’s most picturesque, credited to their isolation, cascades, and largely preserved nature.