Welcome to the first edition of Rivers and Ridges.
Once in a while, something good economically happens for Southern West Virginia and many years back, Boone and Lincoln counties got their share of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail network and two sites opened, representing the most northern of the trail system’s many trails. Two trailheads operating in Julian, West Virginia, were up and running. The Little Coal River and the Ivy Branch trails were wildly popular and the future looked very bright for this new economic windfall and things were booming.
In 2015, the two trails closed and several upstart businesses closed their doors. It appears that the Little Coal River trail that operated on the eastern side of Corridor G is closed for good, but the Ivy Branch trail, like the phoenix, has risen and is poised to reopen.
Ivy was once a boom town and provided a place to work and live for many residents when coal was the economic driver for Southern West Virginia and the economy there. Today, nature has reclaimed the foundations of the town and homes of Ivy, where some can still be seen.
Driving on Corridor G or 119 one can see a locally famous sandstone outcropping; the local residents call it Pinnacle Rock. This is not to be confused with the State Park in Mercer that shares the same name, but this rock is stunningly beautiful in its own right.
It is at this point the river takes a horseshoe bend and wraps around a section of land and comes right back to the big rock and its recreational opportunities. This makes a perfect place for paddlers who don’t want to have two vehicles on hand, one to take them upstream to put in. You can literally float the loop right back to your car. Hiking and walking are other popular things for visitors to do.
Around this scenic stretch of the river, you can find world class fishing and a water park called Water Ways that offers multiple waterslides, miniature golf, walking trails, and a brand-new amphitheater. Several campgrounds are located in the area: The Little Coal River Campground and Big Earl’s provide camping right on the river. Pinnacle Rock is very scenic — it has a train tunnel that goes right through it, and the river makes for some good swimming and excellent fishing around this particular stretch. Paddleboards and flatwater kayaking are very popular in the Little Coal River, but the soon-to-open Ivy Branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail is the anchor business from which all others hope to flourish.
Many lodging owners have been working hard and are now booking. These are not rustic cabins, and for those who want creature comforts while surrounded by nature’s serenity, this might just be your place. The Ivy Branch will have multiple trails available upon reopening and is most unique; it was planned, designed and constructed for dirt bikes, Jeeps, full-size trucks, rock crawlers, side-by-sides, four-wheelers and hikers.
Outdoor adventure specialists are open for business, such as JC Sport Sales in Madison that will provide you with rental or sales for all your fishing needs. Little Coal River Kayaking and Camping or Coal River Outpost can assist you with your kayak rentals. Three generations of the Gillespie/Bias family in particular have turned lodging and hospitality for their guests into their business and passion.
Pappy’s Cabin by the Pond and Mountain Mommas Lodging are great examples of Southern West Virginia hospitality providing lodging and other recreational opportunities assisting visitors to experience the rugged beauty here that is the Ivy Branch and the Coal River Water trail. These lodging opportunities are just minutes from Madison and Danville and only 10 minutes from the Forks of Coal State Park and its varied hiking opportunities. Julian is just 20 minutes away from Southridge Shopping and all it has to offer. Just a few more miles you can enjoy the mountain biking and hiking of the wonderful Kanawha State Forest.