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Coal River Walhonde Water Trail

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Water Trail Offers Scenic Relaxation Just Beyond City Life

By NICKY WALTERS 

For The State Journal

On a hot summer day there is something cool about floating on a river surrounded by green trees, a nice breeze and the quiet sound of flowing water. The Coal River Walhonde Water Trail offers outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to escape the pressures of daily life without having to go too far from home. It is also giving communities along the water a boost.

The water trail system was organized by the Coal River Group, a nonprofit focused on river restoration and economic development for the region. The name Walhonde comes from Walhondecepe, which was what the Delaware Indians originally named what we now know as the Coal River.

The water trail stretches from St. Albans to the Boone County community of Whitesville. The marked trail includes 88 miles of river for the public to use. That includes three rivers — the Big Coal, the Little Coal and the main Coal River. There are over 200 signs along the trail and 17 public boat launches.

“The Coal River Walhonde Water Trail is one of our biggest accomplishments,” said Coal River Group Chairman Bill Currey. Currey and his fishing buddy, Bill Queen, were the co-founders of the Coal River Group.

Currey said the trail is divided into 11 separate trips. Each trip has a GPS coordinate for the beginning and the end. There are descriptions on the maps of what you see along the way, including how many miles it is, where you put in and where you take out.

“Everything is free,” Currey said. “If they put in on their own it is all public use. People love it. They are using it.”

The project has been beneficial to the communities along the rivers as well.

“It brings a tremendous amount of new people to those communities,” Currey said. “It is now a tourism destination.” 

He said the group now is in a position to work with county tourism and business leaders along the trail to help promote use of the trails. This mission has also helped bring people together. 

“We have organized them and now they have cleaned up the river to the point that we have a very clean river,” Currey said. “It is a very attractive river. It has fast waters, slow water, rope swings. The sport fishing is wonderful. People liked our idea. We are kind of sitting back now and saying, ‘wow, it is amazing.’”

The Coal River Group has more than 600 registered volunteers in its organization, and they removed more than 2,000 tires out of the river in 2014. Volunteers along the river trail removed hundreds of tons of trash from the river as well.

The group hosts several events on the river as well to help raise money. One of the most popular events is the Tour De Coal. The “community float,” as Currey describes it, attracted more than 600 people to the water last year. The Coal River Group rents kayaks to people who want to enjoy the river but might not have all the necessary equipment. 

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