A Timeline of Gauley River History


13,000 - 7000 BC To the north, in the broad valleys leading to the Gauley River, it is possible that occupation by big game hunters of the Paleo-Indian era took place.

7000 - 1000 BC There is widely dispersed evidence of hunters and food gatherers of the Archaic period.

1000 BC - 700 AD There is fragmentary evidence from early Woodland period.

700 - 1200 There are artifacts of the hunters and food gatherers of the Armstrong, Buck Garden and Fort Ancient groups of the late Woodland period.

1200 - 1700 It is believed that the area that is now West Virginia became a fairly unpopulated buffer zone between the Iroquois to the north and the Cherokee to the south.

1782 - 1785 William Morris began to acquire land around Peter's Creek.

1783 - 1795 Large land patents were granted, many to speculators.

1790 The Koontz New Road, a rough wagon road built along an Indian trail, was completed between Lewisburg and Charleston.

1791 Henry Morris, Conrad Young and Edward McClung settled near present day Lockwood, in the Kessler's Cross Lanes/Peter's Creek area.

1792 Two young daughters of Henry Morris were killed while going to herd cows. Referred to as the "Morris Massacre."

1795 By this time it appeared the Indians had left the area so more families began settling along the tributaries of the Gauley River.

1800's The salt industry in the Kanawha Valley created a demand for wood, and later coal.

1818 Roadwork completed on Peter's Creek.

1850 - 1858 Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike was built.

1858 A dam was proposed (but never built) on the Meadow River between Big Sewell and Laurel Mountains, 28 miles from its mouth. This dam would have been near Rainelle.

1861 The Civil War battle of Carnifex Ferry was fought.

1867 - 1880 Free schools were organized during the period of reconstruction after the Civil War.

1880 The Kunz and Scholl families arrive from Switzerland and settle the town of Swiss.

1883 Approximate year of the first successful large-scale log drive from Wood's Mill (near Wood's Ferry) downriver to Kanawha.

1885 Timber cutting begins on a large scale.

1885 - 1887 Federal government-sponsored digging of a 100-foot-wide channel in the Gauley River from Gauley Bridge to 3 miles above the mouth of Little Elk Creek takes place.

1893 - 1894 The Gauley Branch of the C&O Railroad was completed, extending from Gauley Junction northward along the Gauley River and up Twentymile Creek to Greendale, a distance of 14.2 miles.

1900's Great expansion of the coal industry takes place. 1905 The Flynn Lumber Company was established at Swiss.

1905 Around this time, the Cherry River Paper Company, William F. Mosser Company (a tannery), and other industries began operations at Richwood resulting in 21 years of industrial pollution in the Gauley River.

1906 The Meadow River Lumber Company was formed.

1908 - 1909 The Sewell Valley Railroad was built from Meadow Creek, along the main line of the C&O to Rainelle Junction.

1913 Rainelle, on the Meadow River, was incorporated.

1915 - 1916 The Loop & Lookout Railroad extended down the Meadow River to Wilderness (Nallen).

1922 The Kanawha and West Virginia Railroad opens a short line from Belva to Swiss.

1926 The New York Central and Chesapeake and Ohio, forced by the Interstate Commerce Commission to pool their resources in the Gauley River area, form the Nicholas, Fayette and Greenbrier Railway.

1927 The West Virginia State Wild Life League is successful in obtaining funds to clean up the Gauley River, which had become known as the River of Ink because of industrial pollution.

1929 - 1931 Twenty-eight miles of railway, including two tunnels, were built by the NF&G between Swiss and Nallen.

1959 Sayre and Jane Rodman, two mountain climbers from Pennsylvania make the first attempt to raft the whitewater of the Gauley. High water forced the group to return later.

1961 The Rodmans successfully raft the Gauley to Swiss.

1965 The US Army Corps of Engineers completes Summersville Dam, flooding a stretch of whitewater that Rodman says was "absolutely glorious."

1968 John Sweet became the first person to successfully kayak "The Devil's Backbone" rapid. It was later renamed "Sweet's Falls" in his honor.

1970s Paul Breuer of Mountain River Tours is credited with making the Gauley River a viable river for the commercial whitewater rafting industry.

1985 Congress added recreation to the list of purposes defined for Summersville Dam maximizing the number of potential days for boating on the Gauley.

1988 Gauley River National Recreation Area established as part of the National Park Service.

1997 General Management Plan (GMP) for Gauley River National Recreation area is completed


Last updated: March 12, 2021

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Gauley River National Recreation Area
P.O. Box 246

Glen Jean, WV 25846-0246


(304) 465-0508

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