May the 15th: A Look Around Twin Falls State Park
Twin Falls State Park is located in Wyoming County, West Virginia which some might call in "the heart of the southern coal fields".
The 55 counties of West Virginia are here named.
The collapse of coal usage and prices has created financial crisis for West Virginia coal counties. The 38 percent decline in West Virginia coal production coupled with a 71 percent decline in prices since 2008 has emptied the coffers of counties who have for decades relied on income from coal taxes. The same forces have left state government with its own crisis and unable to aid the counties’ distress.
Following Wyoming, West Virginia is the nation’s second largest producer of coal. Most of that coal has fed the boilers of electric power plants. From 166 million tons in 2008, production fell to 102 tons in 2015. Projections show a further decline in 2016 to 95 million, which would push the decline to 42 percent. Since 2011, prices for West Virginia coal fell from $139 a ton to $40. Direct employment in the mines has declined by 35 percent.
A predictable outcome for any economy based almost entirely on the boom and bust cycle of resource extraction. In this case - coal. But still we have those who would swear coal will, and indeed must make a come back if West Virginia and other coal producing states are to thrive and prosper. Sheer folly. "King Coal" may indeed make a come back but it will be short lived and leave in its wake again more social, cultural and environmental devastation.
I strongly urge you to read Kent's article. It is a quick and easy read but really packs a wallop.
Ok, that's enough background on the local coal fields. Now let's talk about Twin Falls State Park where we will be spending two nights in one of the cabins.
Twin Falls Resort State Park is located in Wyoming County between Mullens and Pineville. It is named for the two waterfalls, Foley Falls and Black Fork Falls, located in the park and within a quarter mile of each other. The park rests on 3,776 acres donated by the Western Pocahontas Corporation and Pocahontas Land Corporation in 1964 for use as a West Virginia state park.
Development of the park began in the mid-1960s. In the autumn of 1967, a nine-hole golf course opened. Cabins, a swimming pool, golf pro complex, and a lodge with restaurant and gift shop opened in the spring of 1970.
Several old homesteads were removed during initial development, but the park superintendent decided to reconstruct one of the oldest of these homesteads, including the restoration of the Bower cabin built in 1835. Completed in 1974 and housing live-in caretakers since 1977, the restructured pioneer farm is a piece of living history and the crown jewel of the park.
In March 1981, conference and banquet facilities were completed at Twin Falls Lodge. The golf course was expanded to 18 holes in 1984. In 2011, the park completed a $7 million renovation of the lodge, including the addition of 27 rooms, a swimming pool and a fitness center.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
Just north of Morgantown is the Interstate Rest Area and Welcome Center where we made a pit stop. We have seen this sign here many times and finally decided it provided a good photo opp.
We continued on down I-79 and once past the Clarksburg area the traffic thinned out. This drive is always a nice one - for an interstate that is. There are lots of views of wooded hillsides, valleys and distant ridge lines all of which were lush and green with new growth of spring time.
After about 3 hours and 172 miles on I-79 we exited onto US 19 south which would take us to Beckley. Shortly after that we would pick up I-64 east for just a few miles and then exit onto SR 97 which winds its way over to Twin Falls State Park.
But first we had a stop to make.
US 19 spans the New River by way of the New River Gorge Bridge.
The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet (924 m) long over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia, in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. With an arch 1,700 feet (518 m) long, the New River Gorge Bridge was for many years the world's longest single-span arch bridge; it is now the third longest. Part of U.S. Route 19, its construction marked the completion of Corridor L of the Appalachian Development Highway System. The bridge is crossed by an average of 16,200 motor vehicles per day.
The roadway of the New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet (267 m) above the New River. The New River Gorge Bridge is one of the highest vehicular bridges in the world, and is currently the third highest in the United States. In 2005, the structure gained nationwide attention when the US Mint issued the West Virginia state quarter with the bridge depicted on one side. In 2013, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Here are a couple of Google map screen shots that show the area nicely.
I have crossed this bridge on more than one occasion over the past 40 years but I had never taken the time to stop at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center or take the stroll to the Bridge Over look. Since this was Betsy's first time through it seemed like a good time to stop and take a look.
We spent just a moment or two at the Visitors Center opting to save it for another day when we could do it justice.
We then walked over to the trail leading to the Bridge overlook. It was sunny, breezy and warm and it was good to be out of the car.
The boardwalk to the overlook is elaborate and well constructed. A very nice walk through the woods. A Hooded warbler serenaded us as we strolled along.
Quite the set of steps!
Ahhh... those wooded hillsides!
Here is a river level view of the New River Gorge Bridge courtesy of WikiPedia
The river was swollen and muddy and we could see partially submerged trees along the south shore.
A little bit about The New.
The New River, part of the Ohio River watershed, is about 360 mi (515 km) long. The river flows through the U.S. states of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia before joining with the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River at the town of Gauley Bridge, WV.
Despite its name, the New River is considered by some geologists to be one of the oldest rivers in the world. The New River flows in a generally south-to-north course, at times cutting across the southwest-to-northeast-trending ridges and geological texture of the Appalachian Mountains, contrasting with the west-to-east flow of most other major rivers to the east and northeast in Virginia and North Carolina. This peculiar direction, together with the river's many cuts through various erosion-resistant Appalachian rocks, reveal that the New River's formation preceded uplift of the Appalachian Mountains themselves.
Here Betsy scans the hillside with her new binocs.
The next leg of the drive took us to Beckley. Beckley was quite the prosperous and busy town in the heyday of the coal boom.
My now departed botany buddy Bill Grafton told me during this time the local Cadillac dealer sold more cars than any other dealership in the US. Bill was not prone to exaggeration or tall tale telling so I am sure he was correct in this.
The drive from Beckley was quite scenic and pure West Virginia - a green winding road through and over the mountains and along the creeks. Quite lovely.
We checked in at the Twin Falls Lodge, found Cottage #5, unloaded, packed some snacks and then headed to the Twin Falls trail head.
By way of reminder the park is named for the two waterfalls, Foley Falls and Black Fork Falls, located in the park and within a quarter mile of each other.
Here is a look at the Black Fork of Cabin Creek upstream of the falls. It is surrounded by tall hemlocks and thickets of the native "Great Laurel" (Rhododendron maximum).
Here is a look at Black Fork Falls. It is about 20' in height. The recent rains had really filled out the falls.
An interesting rock jumble we passed while hiking to Foley Falls. Enroute we saw what we thought might have been the remains of the Marion Foley Grist Mill but we could not be certain.
When we got back to the cabin we set up our Happy Hour station on the deck.
Par for the course I was massacred by No-See-Ums and Betsy got nary a bite. Not fair!
No-See-Ums are also referred to as Biting Midges, Biting Gnats, Punkies or Sand Flies. They are so small they can get through screens on windows and doors. Besides causing painful bites, they can also be vectors of diseases, particularly in tropical regions. If your yard is a breeding ground for No-See-Ums, then a No-See-Ums trap may be just the solution to your insect problems.
After Happy Hour we cleaned up and went to the lodge for dinner.
The window view from out table.
Dinner is served!
I had pasta with veggies and Betsy had the WV trout. Merlot for her and a "premium" beer for me - Yeungling. Then it was back to the cabin to enjoy our now bug free deck and listen to the calling of the Phoebe and Great Crested flycatchers and watch the Turkey vultures play "musical roosts".
And then to bed...
-Mike and Betsy