Outdoor Adventures Make it
Easy to Get Tucker’d Out
in Tucker County, WV
By Vanessa Orr
There’s nothing like watching a frothing, raging wall of water rise up above you to make you wonder why anyone in the world would want to go whitewater rafting. And then you plow through it, paddling like mad, heart beating 1,000 times a minute, and realize on the other side that you want to do it again. And again. And maybe one more time.
Turns out, I’m hooked on whitewater rafting. I didn’t know this until I went
to spend a weekend in Tucker County, WV, home of Blackwater Falls,
Dolly Sods Wilderness Area and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife
Refuge, among other enticing attractions. The area is an amazing resource
for those who love the outdoors, whether you’re a fan of hiking, biking,
skiing or climbing through caverns. And then there’s the Cheat River—
the largest undammed watershed on the East Coast—a gorgeous stretch
of water where you can kayak, canoe, paddle board and fish, or test your mettle on Class II and Class III rapids.
As a beginner, I was a little freaked out when I got on the raft; first off, I didn’t know that you sat on the sides of a raft, versus inside it—sure, it makes for a quicker exit, but my plan was to definitely stay in the boat. Luckily, our guide, Liz Moore of Blackwater Outdoor Adventures, was the very voice of reason; her calm demeanor was the perfect counterpart to the turbulent water; I was pretty sure I could follow this woman into fire and come out unscathed.
With her guidance, our team managed to conquer numerous rapids with charming names like Calamity, Double Hydrolic, and the very misleading Rocking Horse, which I assure you, is no place for kids to play. The views were amazing when we hit calmer water, but after getting my feet wet (pun intended) on the first few waves, I couldn’t wait to find the next adrenalin-pumping rapid.
For those who prefer really big water, a visit to Blackwater Falls is in order, though it is definitely best viewed on land. Approximately 211 steps take visitors right down beside the falls, which plunges 57 feet to hit the rocks below; there is also a scenic outlook specially designed for those who can’t make the trek to the bottom. The roar of the water is deafening; the scenery, amazing.
Another sight that will take your breath away is Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, which covers 17,371 acres in the Monongahela National Forest. Elevations range from 2,500 to over 4,700 feet, and the view is awe-inspiring. I drove up to the Bear Rocks area where huge boulders make the landscape look otherworldly; much of the landscape contains bog and heath eco-types, more typical to southern Canada. The area contains more than 47 miles of trails, so if you have the time to do it, I would definitely recommend making a day of it.
An even better idea is to spend a long weekend, so that you can see all that Tucker County has to offer. There are numerous places to stay, depending on interests and budget, including the newly remodeled Canaan Valley Resort, which is centrally located to Blackwater Falls, Dolly Sods, and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to 160 new guest rooms and suites, the Resort also offers cabins, cottages, and a campground, along with 18 miles of trails and a view from the indoor pool that can’t be beat. Sitting on my room’s balcony watching the mist rise from the mountains, I could just feel the tension leaving my body. And that was after whitewater rafting!
Of course, no vacation would be complete without delicious food and drinks, and again, there are a range of excellent options, including the Golden Anchor Restaurant, located in a converted barn built during Prohibition, and Sirianni’s Cafe, a pasta and pizza place that doesn’t take plastic, but is worth the visit to an ATM just to eat there. If you’re a beer lover, make sure to stop into Mountain State Brewing Co. in Thomas or Blackwater Brewing Company in Davis for a taste of some truly excellent brews.
To work off all of those calories, I recommend a visit to The Purple Fiddle in downtown Thomas for dancing (they have live music almost every day), or take a walk to the Tip Top, a combined coffee and craft spirit bar located just down the street, where you can fill up on caffeine or their signature Moscow Mule.
There is also a thriving art scene and wonderful shops and galleries, but those will have to fit in another column.
To learn more about everything that Tucker County, WV, has to offer, visit www.canaanvalley.org, call 800-782-2775.
You can also visit:
Blackwater Brewing Company: www.blackwater-brewing.com, 304-259-4221
Blackwater Falls State Park: www.blackwaterfalls.com, 800-CALL-WVA
Blackwater Outdoor Adventures: www.blackwateroutdoors.com, 304-478-3775
Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center: www.canaanresort.com, 800-622-4121
Golden Anchor Restaurant & Luxury Log Cabins: www.goldenanchorcabins.com, 304-866-2722
Mountain State Brewing Co.: www.mountainstatebrewing.com, 304-463-4500
Purple Fiddle Café, Brews & Stage: www.purplefiddle.com, 304-463-4040
Sirianni’s Café: 304-259-5454
Tip Top: www.tiptopthomas.com, 304-463-4455
The view from Dolly Sods
The bank building in Davis, WV
(right) Blackwater Falls