Exploring Red Ash
Red Ash is one of many ghost towns at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia and is accessible from an easy hike on an old railroad.
Red Ash is one of many coal camps along or near the New River in West Virginia. Developed by the Red Ash Coal & Coke Company in 1891, it was said that the coal deposit was of high quality because its flame burned with a fine “red ash.”
Red Ash was notable for its 80 coke ovens that were unique in that they featured dual doors to facilitate the use of mechanical arms to more efficiently load and unload coke. The community was also near Red Ash Island which was also used to house people that were afflicted with contagious illnesses such as during the smallpox epidemic from 1900 to 1905 and the influenza pandemic in 1918. The island also included a baseball diamond, a dancing pavilion, swimming holes, and a cemetery.
Red Ash’s mines were exhausted by the mid-1950s and the community was abandoned. Today, one can hike the Southside Trail at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve along the former Chesapeake and Ohio Railway South Side Branch to Red Ash. The seven mile trail is easy to hike and bike (with the portion from Cunard to Brooklyn open to motorized vehicles) and provides great views of the New River and passes by only Red Ash, but Rush Run and other ghost towns. Grave markers can be found off trail on Red Ash Island at 37.9650328305884, -81.023674899185.