Guyandotte Water Trail
A river of History


The Guyandotte River follows a wandering course through one of the world’s most rugged mountain regions—an Appalachian landscape covered in thick forests and peppered with ghost towns and relics of one of the nation’s most productive coal-mining industries.

Coal is still mined in the mountains beyond the upper river, but the remnants of early mining here, including turn-of-the-century architecture more akin to that of eastern cities, add to the allure of the region which once filled with hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

Hikers, hunters, and trail-riders on all-terrain vehicles now follow the paths that miners once trekked, and anglers fish the rivers and streams that ran black with coal a century ago. As the valley of the Guyandotte reverts to its natural state, more visitors are discovering the wonder of the landscape and the potential for sustainable development among its mountains.

Discovering the Guyandotte

Ready to explore the Guyandotte? You’ll find plenty of backroads and highways to lead you through the region, and its inhabitants are known for their hospitality and delight in introducing visitors to the region. There are three traditional methods of immersing oneself in the Guyandotte that are also among the chief reasons visitors travel here:

ATV Excursions

All-terrain vehicles serve as an important mode of off-road transportation in the upper reaches of the valley where trails are often more convenient than paved roads. Countless miles of trail climb into the hills along the river, and many are part of the network of Hatfield & McCoy Trails on which public trail riding is permitted. Thousands of off-road enthusiasts visit annually, lodging in vacation rentals and cabins designed specifically to accommodate ATVs and UTVs. Many restaurants cater to tourists and ATV riders in search of local cuisine.


The Guyandotte is a popular fishing river, particularly where float trips are concerned. Much of the river from R.D. Bailey Lake downstream is runnable without portage, though upstream the river is interrupted by shoals in many places.

Though the the Guyandotte is a popular destination for warmwater fishing, several of its tributaries—Buffalo Creek, Pinnacle Creek, and its Clear and Slab forks— are cold enough to support trout and are stocked annually, usually in spring. In addition to lake fishing on R.D. Bailey Lake, the state stocks several smaller fishing ponds and lakes in the area.


Hunting is a perennially popular sport in the Guyandotte region, and hunters come from several states away to hunt its public hunting areas and on private preserves. More than 30,000 acres of public hunting lands are found in wildlife management areas at Elk Creek, Horse Creek, Big Ugly, Creek, and R. D. Bailey Lake. Land companies that manage hundreds of thousands of acres of forest lease tracts to hunt clubs and individuals.

The Origin of Guyandotte

This watershed remained relatively undeveloped by expanding American industry and agriculture even into the first part of the 19th century. Before American General “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s army defeated Shawnee Blue Jacket’s combined Amer-Indian forces at Fallen Timber in 1794, war parties continued hitting settlements in southwestern Virginia in a vain attempt to retake former territory. The ancient war trails up Kanawha valley and through eastern Kentucky were too crowded for Virginia and Kentuckians to allow safe passage for aboriginal warriors, but the Guyandotte River, Tug Fork, and Levisa Fork valleys remained unsettled enough to allow war parties to pass relatively undetected. During the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, several nations’ armies demanded bear skins for warm winter wear and decorative clothing, like the tall bear skin hats of the British soldiers. In a three year period (1805-1807), some 8,000 bear hides were shipped from these watersheds to New York merchants, like John Aster for European markets.


  • R.D. Bailey Dam

    The project was originally called the Justice Reservoir during the planning stages. In 1965, Congress changed the name in honor of the late Judge R.D. Bailey, a lawyer, state senator, prosecuting attorney, and leader in Wyoming County education. Judge Bailey also was a circuit judge for Wyoming and mingo counties during the bloody coal mine wars of the 1920’s. The Guyandotte River has a history of significant flooding about every two years—causing death and property damage. Damages caused by the record 1963 flood totaled $8 million in the Logan area alone.

  • Buffalo Creek Flood & Mine Disaster

    The Buffalo Creek Flood was a disaster that occurred on February 26, 1972, when the Pitston Coal Company’s coal slurry impoundment burst after experiencing heavy rains in the area. During this disaster 132,000,000 gallons of black coal waste water crested over 30 feet on to the residents of 16 small mining communities along Buffalo Creek. Out of a population of 5,000 people, 125 were killed, 1,211 injured, and 4,000 people were left homeless. The flood destroyed 507 homes, 42 mobile homes and 30 businesses. It is considered as one of the most devastating disasters in American history and caused for change in regulations of how coal waste water is stored.

  • Battle of Blair Mountain

    In the upper watershed of Dingess Run near the town of Sharples is the site of the largest armed US insurrection since the US Civil War. Five days in late august and early September of 1921 approximately 12,000 miners confronted an army of police and strikebreakers backed by coal operators in an effort to unionize the southern coal fields of WV. Their struggle ended only after approximately one million rounds were fired and the US Army intervened by presidential order.

  • Falls of the Guyandotte

    The Falls of the Guyandotte were located just passed West Hamlin at the convergence of the Guyandotte River and Falls Creek and played a significant crossroads for many of the earlier settlers of the area. The first reference of the ‘Falls’ were noted in the book “Follow the River” by James Alexander Thom.

  • Salt Rock Petroglyphs

    This was the site of the second major excavation site in West Virginia and occurred in the fall of 1846. Ephraim G. Squire and Edwin H. Davis documented the Salt Rock petroglyphs along the Guyandotte River and their report was published in 1848 in the first volume of the Smithsonian Institution’s “Contributions of Knowledge” series, titled Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. The rocks contain several carvings, including a figure wearing a “weeping eye” mask. Some authoritative sources suggest 1550-1650AD as being the approximate period the rock art was created.

Guyandotte Communities

The valley of the Guyandotte once brimmed with innumerable small coal towns and hamlets, many of which were abandoned as mining employment dwindled. Including the sprawling city of Huntington, at its mouth, the following larger towns remain.


A railroad boomtown, Mullens was named for A. J. Mullins, who owned the land on which the town was established in 1912. (Its incorporated name was inadvertently spelled “Mullens. Mullens developed after the Virginian Railway established a terminal there. Many buildings on the National Register of Historic Places in its downtown were raised by the Early Brothers, descendants of Confederate General Jubal Early. The eastward extent of the Pinnacle Creek ATV Trail System approaches the town on the southwest.


Logan was platted in 1827 and first named Aracoma in honor of the daughter of Cornstalk, a Shawnee chieftan. According to local tradition, Aracoma lived on an island in the Guyandotte River there. In 1907, the city name was changed from Aracoma to Logan in honor of the Mingo chief and orator. Chief Logan State Park, where the outdoor drama “The Aracoma Story” is performed in summer, is located four miles north of town. The Bearwallow ATV Trail System is located northeast of the city. The U.S. Route 19 expressway courses along its flank.


The Guyandotte leaves the hill-country at Barboursville and enters the broad flats of the Ohio Valley and its tributaries. Established in 1815, Barboursville was among the first towns to be founded along the western margins of West Virginia (then Virginia). River traffic on the lower Guyandotte and overland traffic on the Midland Trail swelled commerce in the community. Interstate 64 courses through Barboursville and the Huntington Mall is located there.


The seat of Wyoming County, Pineville was platted in 1893 and named for a pine forest along the river near the mouth of Rockcastle Creek. The city maintains a park at Castle Rock, a monumental sandstone formation that rises along the river near the center of the town. Built of stone quarried nearby, the county courthouse complex dominates the town. The Pinnacle Creek ATV Trail System approaches Pineville from the south, and Twin Falls Resort State Park is located approximately 10 miles northeast.


Man is situated on and opposite the mouth of Buffalo Creek, which infamously flooded in 1972 after a dam near its source failed, killing 125 and leaving more than 4,000 homeless. The community’s name is derived from the last syllable of the surname of Ulysses Hichman, a member of the House of Delegates from Logan County who served from 1866 until 1869. The Rock House ATV Trail System is located southwest of Man, and the 6,000-acre Elk Creek Wildlife Management Area, to the southeast.


His identity erased by time, a hunter named Gilbert was allegedly killed by Shawnee on Gilbert Creek, which joins the Guyandotte at Gilbert. The trailhead for the Rockhouse ATV Trail System is located at Gilbert, and 630-acre R.D. Bailey Lake, surrounded by a wildlife-management area of more than 17,000 acres, is located two miles upstream on the Guyandotte. U.S. Route 52 passes through the town.


Members of the Chapman family were among the first to settle in the community now known as Chapmanville in the early 1800s. The town was named for Ned Chapman, who owned a store and ran the post office there. The U.S. Route 19 expressway courses through the community. The Guyandotte flows out of the rugged Cumberland Mountains region near Chapmanville and into the sprawling hill country south of the Ohio River.

West Hamlin

Located five miles west of Hamlin, the county seat of Lincoln County, West Hamlin was an export center on the Guyandotte for farmers who worked many small hill farms south of the Ohio Valley. Though Hamlin is located on the Mud River, West Hamlin’s situation on the Guyandotte afforded access to the railroad that followed the river there.


The Guyandotte empties into the Ohio River at Huntington, one of the largest cities in West Virginia and one of the busiest inland ports in the U.S. Now a suburb in the city, the village of Guyandotte, at the mouth of the river, was settled by French pioneers in the late 1700s, though a town was not incorporated until 1810, and then by Virginian settlers. Huntington was established in the 1870s during completion of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, which linked the commerce of the Atlantic Coast with that of the Ohio Valley. The city is named for Collis P. Huntington. Marshall University, with an annual enrollment of more than 13,000, is located at Huntington.

Recreational Opportunities

Guyandotte Scenic Drive

The Guyandotte Scenic Drive is nestled within the southern Allegheny Mountains and is roughly bounded by the Guyandotte Mountain to the north and the Guyandotte River to the south, spanning 501 square miles of lush, mountainous terrain. The drive is a motoring tour loop for both automobiles and motorcycles that provides significant natural beauty, history, scenic vistas and numerous recreational opportunities along the way.

Twin Falls State Park

Located 30 minutes from Beckley, WV and set in the rugged mountains of Southern West Virginia, Twin Falls Resort State Park is the ideal site for nature seekers.  Visitors to Twin Falls can enjoy overnight accommodations ranging from a 47-room lodge located on the mountain top to secluded cottages or spacious camping sites at the campground. Twin Falls provides a sprawling 18-hole, Par 71 championship golf course.  Other leisure activities at Twin Falls include twelve scenic hiking and biking trails, picnicking, swimming in an outdoor pool, full-service restaurant, or just relaxing with a piece of history at the Pioneer Farm.

R.D. Baily Dam/Wildlife Rec Area

The lake at R.D. Bailey Dam is surrounded by 19,000 acres of the R.D. Bailey Wildlife Management Area. The Division of natural Resources manages 17,000 acres of the property for providing opportunities for hunting and wildlife enthusiasts. Activities available at the wildlife area are trails (hiking, bicycle, and horseback riding), picnic shelters, camping, and marina facilities. Fishing at the R.D. Bailey Lake has been excellent for largemouth & smallmouth bass, walleye, tiger Muskie, channel catfish, crappie, and pan fish since the lake was completed in 1980.

Chief Logan State Park

Chief Logan State Park is located in the heart of West Virginia’s southern coalfields. Chief Logan State Park is four miles north of the town of Logan. The park and town share the name of the Chief of the Cayuga Tribe (also known as the Mingo tribe). This 4,000-acre park is one of the most visited in the system. The park features a 25-site campground, outdoor amphitheater, and swimming pool with water slide, tennis, and miniature golf. Picnic shelters and playground are found through the park.  The Guyandotte Beauty Flower has also been found in the park.

Hatfield & McCoy Trail System

Near to the Guyandotte River is the Hatfield & McCoy Trail System. This recreational trail is a statutory corporation created by the West Virginia Legislature to generate economic development through tourism in nine southern West Virginia counties. By mid-2009, the Hatfield & McCoy Trail System covered more than 500 miles of off-road trails in five of its nine project counties. Each of its seven trails systems are open 365 days a year to ATVs, dirt bikes, and utility vehicles (UTVs).

Ranger Park

The community of Ranger, WV has recently installed a wonderful park along the bank of the Guyandotte River. Currently the park has a concession stand, restroom facilities, picnic tables, and little league fields for softball and soccer. The park also boasts a walking trail that encompasses its boundaries. Lincoln County Parks and Receration department has also installed many native plants and plantings to attract songbirds and butterflies in the area. Future plans are to install a river access point as well as primitive camping sites.

Barbousville Park

Located just outside of Barboursville, the park spreads over 900 and has multiple soccer fields, three baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts, little league baseball fields, midget football field, fishing lakes and ponds, picnic areas, amphitheater, walking trails, horse show ring, and archery range. It also features nine shelters that are available for reservation for special events.

McClelland Park

McClelland Park is one of many parks operated by the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District. The park is named for retired Executive Director James McClelland for over twenty five years of service and dedication to the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation System. The park promotes the influence of the river with play apparatus that looks like sternwheelers that once travelled the Ohio River. The park also provides basketball courts, tennis courts, and a walking path.

Along the River

The Guyandotte River and its tributaries offer many opportunities for fishing, wildlife viewing, and scenic vistas of the West Virginia Mountains. The river provides a variety of fishing and fun.  Some of the fish in the Guyandotte River are bass, bluegill, catfish, carp, crappie, gar, muskie, trout, walleye as well as turtles. To provide easy access to the river, the Department of Natural Resources built three boat ramps along the river. During the summer, many people can be seen fishing and canoeing along the river.

Educational Opportunities

Educational opportunities are abundant along the Guyandotte River as noted from the historical prospective of activities that have taken place along this watercourse. The sponsors of this proposal plans to highlight and bring more opportunities for educating the general public on these historic sites throughout the watershed. In reviewing for this application, it quickly becomes apparent of the Guyandotte River’s influences on the shaping of the United States from George Washingtons first survey of the area to the rich history in mining and organized labor unions.

  • Oceana Civil War Day

    The purpose of this event is to inform the public about Civil War History. This event started on May, 4 2012 and has been educating the public, adding activities and providing family fun since. The event is free of charge.

  • Wyoming County Historical Museum

    Located in Oceana, the Wyoming County Historical Museum collects, preserves, and interprets the historic and prehistoric cultural heritage of the Wyoming County region for all citizens.

  • Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College

    Located near Pineville, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College provides accessible, affordable, quality education and training that promote success for those we serve. Southern West Virginia Community College was established as an independently accredited, comprehensive community college on July 1, 1971, through the consolidation of two existing branches of Marshall University. These branches, located in Mingo and Logan Counties, had been in operation under Marshall’s direction since 1963 and provided the first two years of liberal arts and teacher education, as well as career programs in secretarial science and radiologic technology. In 1971 these two locations became the first two campuses of Southern when it became an independently accredited institution of higher education. It was also in 1971 that Southern’s first building was completed in Williamson.

  • Chief Logan State Park

    The park offers many learning activities for visitors to the area. The WV Division of Culture and History has a rotating exhibit that they loan to the Museum in the Park facility located at Chief Logan. The exhibit varies from local history exhibit to the history of mining in WV. Also located at Chief Logan is the Liz Spurlock Amphitheater. Summer theater performances are scheduled and performed by The Aracoma Story, Inc. In addition to “The Aracoma Story-Spirits and Legends”, many other performances have been added throughout the years.

  • Ranger Park

    This park is developing a landscaping plan that focuses efforts on providing needed habitat for songbirds and butterflies. When enjoying the park walking trail, visitors can see and learn about the different types of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees that are beneficial to attracting and helping to sustain these species. Plans for the future include adding bad and owl boxes to encourage these species to the park.

  • Barboursville Civil War Days

    A Civil War sanctioned re-enactment takes place around July 14th each year to mark the anniversary of this battle. Visitors can watch and learn about the battle. Attend musical performances from that era, and attend a memorial service.

  • Guyandotte Civil War Days

    The Guyandotte Civil War Days focuses its programs on the historic event of the raid on Guyandotte on November 10, 1861 as an effort to celebrate and promote the rich heritage of the area. The re-enactment of the Confederate raid on Saturday is the highlight of this event. The re-enactment is a true re-enactment based on known historical facts concerning the November 10, 1831 skirmish.

  • The Guyandotte Beauty Flower

    The Synandra Hispidula, or Guyandotte Beauty Flower, was named after the Guyandotte River and is native to the east central region of the United States. The Guyandotte Beauty is less prevalent in West Virginia than it used to be, but future efforts of propagation and restoration of the flower have been discussed by the Guyandotte Water Trail Alliance.


The Guyandotte Water Trail Alliance was created in 2014 to convene partners interested in the development of the Guyandotte Water Trail. Greater Kanawha Resource Conservation & Development (GKRC&D) and National Coal Heritage Area Authority (NCHAA) brought together local state agencies, watershed groups, non-profits, private environmental companies and other partners to create projects, determine goals, and spread the awareness of the Guyandotte Water Trail. In 2015 NCHAA brought on an Americorps VISTA to help coordinate projects, write grants and convene members.

Listed below are the organizations involved with the Guyandotte Water Trail and members of the Guyandotte Water Trail Alliance:

Current USGS Water Data

Guyandotte River

near Baileysville

  • Streamflow: 70.9 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 2.91 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

at Man

  • Streamflow: 2100 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 3.53 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

at Logan

  • Streamflow: 116 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 4.38 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

at Branchland

  • Streamflow: 116 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 3.46 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

Guyandotte River Water Trail Maps

Click on the image for the full verison of each map
The Guyandotte Water Trail: Map 1
The Guyandotte Water Trail: Map 2
The Guyandotte Water Trail: Map 3
The Guyandotte Water Trail: Map 4
The Guyandotte Water Trail: Map 5

Contact Us

    Click on the Image to Download the Full Trail Map