No region epitomizes the essence of outdoor adventure in the Appalachians better than the Gauley. The Gauley River and surrounding area brings more tourists to West Virginia than any other attraction. The class IV-V whitewater is world-renowned, as is the legendary Gauley Festival every September, and the hiking and mountain biking trails that lace Gauley Mountain.
This summer, Gauley Mountain is slated to be beheaded.
West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit to Powellton Coal Company to begin mountaintop removal mining atop Gauley Mountain, in the heart of world-renowned whitewater country.
Gauley Mountain is the epicenter of outdoor adventure in West Virginia. The 2,539-foot mountain is the backdrop for the famed New River Gorge Bridge. Gauley Mountain is even on the back of West Virginia’s state quarter. The mountain and surrounding national recreation area is home to the best hiking and mountain biking trails in the country. Gauley Mountain overlooks both the New River Gorge National Recreation Area and Gauley River National Recreation Area—units of the national park system that comprise nearly 100,000 acres. Hikers, climbers, runners, and mountain bikers flock to the New River Gorge and Gauley Recreation Area for world-class outdoor adventure.
But the region is best known for whitewater. Paddling the Gauley—whether in a raft, canoe, or kayak—is a rite of passage for outdoor enthusiasts in the Southeast. If Gauley Mountain is destroyed by mountaintop removal, the rivers’ world-famous whitewater will soon become toxin-laced blackwater.
Local citizens and outdoor groups are appealing the mountaintop removal mining permit on June 9 in Charleston, W.Va. This will likely be the last opportunity to prevent mountaintop mining from cutting the heart out of Gauley country. If you have ever paddled the Gauley or New Rivers, hiked in the New River Gorge, attended GauleyFest or Bridge Day, or if you have ever wdreamed about any of these classic outdoor adventures, your voice is needed to protect this pristine and unparalleled area. If you cannot attend the hearing in Charleston, visit ohvec.org to write a letter or voice your concerns to targeted decision-makers.
A scalped, denuded Gauley Mountain means polluted, toxic sludge and sediment dumped into the Gauley and New River watersheds. It means deadly drinking water for nearby residents and the pollution of national parklands and waterways. It means landslides and sludge ponds and more coal ash disasters.
There’s never been a more urgent moment for outdoor enthusiasts to step up and protect the places where we play.
Wanna learn more? Watch this five-minute video produced by the local citizens of Ansted, W.Va, who live below Gauley Mountain.