Abandoned Coal Towns in the New River GorgeFebruary 4, 2015
The ruins of the New River Gorge carry memories of a past that once thrived on the early mining industry. More than 60 mining towns sprouted in this region, and they still stand today as a testament to West Virginia’s economic, political and social history with coal.
You can take yourself back in time by walking through these lost communities. They give a vivid picture of the past, outlining the setting for Appalachian coal mining families and workers.
Most of the people who came to these sites arrived after the creation of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad in 1873. It was created to provide a faster way of travel between the Atlantic Coast and the Ohio River Valley. In addition, a part of this railroad led to faster coal transportation through the gorge. Coal production nearly doubled, as well as the population.
However, due to the gorge’s limited accessibility, the mines made a low return on investment. This led to mine closures and, ultimately, the ghost towns you are able to see today, like:
Built by the Low Moor Iron Company in 1899, Kaymoor became one of the most successful coal operations in the gorge by being one of the largest and most productive. By the 1950s, however, thousands moved away and, eventually, the site fell into disrepair. The National Park Service improved the accessibility for visitors to Kaymoor by building steps down to the site.
John Nuttall, an English immigrant and Pennsylvania capitalist, opened the Nuttallburg mining operation in 1873, soon after the opening of the C&O railroad. You can find this mine across from Kaymoor. Some of its key features include an array of coke ovens and various mining structures, including a towering conveyor belt that swoops down from the hillside.
Although Thurmond is not completely deserted with a 2010 census population of 5, the town now operates as a National New River Gorge visitor center. Yet, in its early days, Thurmond served as a cog in both the coal and rail industries. The population boomed in the early 20th century, and the railroad depot saw as many as 95,000 passengers a year. The hotels and boarding homes were regularly above max capacity.
Other Popular Mining Ghost Towns
Tons of mining sites are located in the area and access to many of them is boundless. They serve as memorials for the past and the foundation of the New River Coal Fields. Some other popular mining sites you can explore are:
What do you hope to find by exploring these historic mining sites?