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Little Kanawha River

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Photo courtesy of Brian Powell Photo courtesy of Brian Powell

Little Kanawaha River Filled with History, Fish


The Little Kanawha River, winding across six counties in West Virginia, has a long history of enabling commercial development in West Virginia.

The oil and gas industry owes much of its development in West Virginia to the Little Kanawha River. 

"The river ranges through some of the most rural countryside in West Virginia," said David Sibray, publisher of West Virginia Explorer. "Though its basin has been visited by cycles of timbering and oil and gas drilling, its economy remains principally agricultural and relatively stable. As a result, many of the old farms and small towns retain their scenic and historical character."

The river is 169 miles long and is a tributary of the Ohio River. The entire watershed of the Little Kanawaha drains about 2,320 miles of the Allegheny plateau. 

Scott Morrison, a fish biologist with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, said that the Little Kanawha River is one of the most popular bodies of water to fish in Wirt County.

He said it was particularly special becaus  one can find both trout and muskies along stretches of the river. He said it is one of the best fishing destinations in the Western region of the state. 

The West Virginia DNR lists the Little Kanawha as a "premier fishing destination" for muskie. The muskie, a fish known for being elusive, it's also called the "fish of 10,000 casts." 

"Though I've angled on the Little Kanawha, mostly upstream above Burnsville, I encountered the largest fish I'd ever seen, a muskie, on the Big Bend in the river below Annamoriah Flats," Sibray said. "I was fishing for a good photo, actually, and lost my footing on the bank. I slid down into murky water and onto what I thought was a log, but it turned out to be the back of a muskie which had to be over 50 inches long. It bucked like a bronco."

The river passes through Lewis, Braxton, Gilmer, Calhoun, Wirt and Wood counties before joining the Ohio at Parkersburg. A dam near Burnsville was completed in 1976 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, Claudius Crozet, director of the Virginia Board of Public Works, recommended that locks and dams be built on the Little Kanawha River so that the river could be navigated. The Little Kanawha Navigation Company began selling stock in 1847.

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