Devoted to exploring off the beaten path for beautiful waterfalls, wildflowers, and landscapes in West Virginia.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Nuttallburg: A Trip Back in Time

At Nuttallburg, deep in the New River Gorge, the National Park Service (NPS) has turned back the clock for you. Through federal grants, the NPS has restored the coal mine and town site of Nuttallburg and opened it for the public in 2011. The coal mine was first established by English entrepreneur John Nuttall in 1870 and became the second town in the New River Gorge to ship smokeless coal. Nuttallburg was a bustling mining community by the turn of the century, continuing to thrive under the direction of his heirs after Nuttall's death in 1897. In 1920 Nuttallburg gained national attention when the automobile industrialist Henry Ford took over the mines. He pioneered new engineering and management systems including a conveyor system called “button and rope.” Nevertheless, Ford’s innovations failed to thrive at Nuttallburg, and he sold his interests eight years later in 1928. 
Nuttallburg Tipple

Mining Site Restored

After passing through three different owners, the mine was finally closed in 1958. Mine structures began to decay, buildings collapsed leaving only their stone foundations behind, and a forest of trees and vines progressively concealed the disappearing town. However, due to the vision of NPS historical architect Richard Seegars, the NPS began a three phase program to restore the site. Phase I began in 2005 with the stabilization of the tipple. Phase II was directed toward refurbishing the conveyor and headhouse. Financed by funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the project was finished under Phase III which involved vegetation removal, the felling of more than 1200 trees, final structure stabilization, trail building, fencing and interpretative signs, and road renovations. Now, according to author Eve West, “Nuttallburg is considered one of West Virginia’s finest examples of an early-twentieth century coal-mining community and one of the best coal-related industrial sites.”
Nuttallburg Conveyor
To get to Nuttallburg from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, drive north on US 19 0.3 miles to the next intersection and turn right onto Lansing-Edmond Road (County Route 5/82). Follow Lansing-Edmond Road (becomes CR 82) 6.0 miles to Winona. Turn right onto Keeneys Creek Road (CR 85/2), continue past the houses (do not cross the creek) as the road turns to gravel. Travel 4.1 miles to the main Nuttallburg parking area and restroom. Parking for disabled visitors is located an additional 0.1 miles beyond the main parking area. Due to the narrow, curvy access road, large RV’s are not recommended.
Beehive Coke Oven

The Tipple Trail

There are seven trails at Nuttallburg that rank from very easy to very difficult. The Tipple Trail ranks first in interest in my estimation. It’s an easy 0.6 mile trip. From the parking lot, you’ll pass the tipple and get good views of the imposing conveyor structure. It’s an impressive sight and quite an engineering feat as well. After passing the conveyor, the trail splits and encircles a long bay of beehive coke ovens. The lower split of the trail passes by the openings of the coke ovens. At the end of the coke ovens the trail circles around the foundation of the Company Store and returns to the tipple. 
Seldom Seen

Seldom Seen

At the Company Store a new trail takes off toward a place with an intriguing name, “Seldom Seen.” Seldom Seen served as a small residential community for some families of those employed at Nuttallburg. All that remains of the town now are a few foundation stones. It’s an easy 0.6 mile round trip.

Town Loop Trail

When back at the tipple, I recommend you take the Town Loop Trail (0.5 miles). As the name suggests, this trail loops through the old town and by several foundations. Because the town facilities were segregated, you’ll see the foundations of the white church and white schoolhouse as well as the remnants of a small home. 
Company Store

Keeny’s Creek Trail

For those who are looking for a longer hike, I suggest taking the Keeney’s Creek Trail (3.3 miles). This is a rail trail with a gentle 4% grade. This trail crosses under the conveyor and over several trestle bridges that offer spectacular views of the rugged cascades of Short Creek. Trail connections can be made from this trail to the Conveyor Trail and Town Loop Connector Trail.
Short Creek
Wherever you choose to explore Nuttallburg, you’ll find excellent interpretative signs complete with historic photos and informative explanations. Nuttallburg is a great place for history buffs and day hikers alike. For more information on the trails visit NPS Nuttallburg Trails.

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