Guardians of the West Fork Plan to Establish a West Fork River Water Trail

Guardians Newsletter
28 October 2013
By Martin Christ

Guardians of the West Fork (GWF) is a watershed organization "dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the ecological integrity of the West Fork River, tributaries, and it's watershed." It has bewen active since 2001.

GWF is improving the West Fork River through it's work on Lambert's Run. This tributary to the West Fork river ran approximately as clear as a red brick until GWF, with funding from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the Office of Surface Mining, as well as technical assistance from the National Mine Reclamation Center at West Virginia University, carried out six projects to treat mine drainage. The partners are currently working on one more project that will clean up a tributary of Lambert's Run that remains polluted. GWF was a pioneer in restoring streams from acid mine drainage in West Virginia - its watershed based plan was the first one completed in the state.

The West Fork River flows from near Rock Cave in Upshur County in to Fairmont, where it joins Tygart Valley River to form the Monongahela River. On it's way it becomes the main branch of Stonewall Jackson Reservoir. Below Stonewall Jackson dam it flows through Weston, West Milford and Clarksburg.

A water trail is a route on a stream, river or lake that provides boaters with a recreational, scenic, historical or educational opportunity. GWF, like other groups across the state, want to invite people to boat on the river so more people will have an interest in protecting and restoring it. The group is working with Peggy Pings of the Rivers, Trails, Conservation assistance program in the National Parks Service to secure official designation as a water trail from the West Virginia Department of Transportation. With this designation the group can request additional resources for developing an water trail, such as publishing a water trail guide or building boat ramps at launch sites. The Coal River near St. Albans, the upper Monongahela River near Morgantown, and the Cheat River between Parsons and Rowlesburg all have officially designated water trails.

The West Fork Water Trail will feature excellent fishing, including for muskie, and wild life viewing. GWF members have recently reported seeing river otters. The water trail will also visit a number of historic sits, featuring, for example the area where Confederate Civil war general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson grew up.