Three Scenic New River Mining Towns to Visit

Southern West Virginia was built on coal mining and one doesn’t have to look very hard to find an old coal mining town.

But the coal towns of the New River Gorge are a bit different. They were small and remote, etched into the side of the mountain and mostly cutoff from each other except by rail. The towns of the Gorge were abandoned after the coal became too difficult to mine because living in this area was a tough existence.

There were well over 15 mining towns located in just the lower 14 mile stretch of the New River Gorge National Park.

Here’s a look at three of these towns that you can visit to get a peek into the mining of yesteryear.


The Restored Thurmond Depot

Thurmond is by far the most famous of all the New River coal towns. From being the site of a world record poker game, to shipping more freight than cities like Cincinnati, to serving as the set of major motion picture, this town has one heck of a history.

Thurmond was one of two major shipping points in the New River Gorge and still has many standing buildings and a few residents. The Bank of Thurmond and the hotel above it is just one of the buildings that are still a part of this old coal town.

The National Park Service restored the old Thurmond Depot and now it serves as a wonderful seasonal visitor center and museum.  The Depot is the centerpiece of this old mining town and hopefully in the future will be only one of many restored buildings.

Thurmond is accessed from Glen Jean via County Rt. 25 and is only about 15 minutes from Oak Hill.


Built in the 1880’s by John Nuttall, Nuttallburg was made famous when Henry Ford purchased it as a means of obtaining quality coal to power his growing automobile industry.

The Fordson Mine was only open a few years before it was sold again due to difficulties in transporting coal from WV to Michigan.

This town is located in the heart of the whitewater section of the New River, between the rapids Dudley’s Dip and Double Z.  Hundreds of thousands of people have floated right by it and never known it was there due to the lush forest hiding its secrets. When the leaves are off you can still see the tipple and the immense coal conveyor, which at 1385 feet was one of the longest button and rope conveyors ever built at a coal mine.


The Kaymoor mines were some of the largest and most productive mines in the Gorge. The town was actually split, with some of it located on the top of the Gorge and some of it down on the river.

Kaymoor had no churches, banks, saloons or a town hall but did have two schools (at the top and bottom of the town), a company store and a pool hall.

Upon exploration you can still see the old Kaymoor powder house, the coke ovens and remnants of many of the old structures. There are also two barricaded old mine portals that give you just a glimpse of what going back into a mine was like in those days.

The Kaymoor coal mines will be the most difficult of the three to access. You can either hike down from the top, accessed at Garten via County Rt. 9/2, or hike in 2 miles from Fayette Station Rd (Co. Rt. 82) at the trailhead.

What other coal towns do you recommend visiting?

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