Since there are no signs that designate the "official" start of the Blackwater Canyon Trail
I get to pick my own spot. The best place to begin the trail is just south of the old North
Fork Blackwater River railroad bridge. Since the Thomas Station was located on the
other side of the bridge this makes it a logical place to start.
Actually the north end of the bridge would be a more appropriate place to begin since that's
where the station stood but the railroad bridge is unsafe and closed to the public so you'll
want to start from the south end. Be sure to follow the directions for Parking in Thomas on the map
page. These will show you how to get to the south end of the bridge without having to go across it.
One interesting aspect of the station was it's
addition. The original building was situated between
two converging rail lines. When it needed to be
expanded the only space available was above
In this postcard from 1928, look under the center
of the station. You can see a white tapered
foundation block with a vertical beam rising
Looking at the current photo you can see the tapered
foundation block still remains. The station addition
reached halfway across the river to the middle
of the bridge.
|Then & Now: How it looked here in 1954.|
Mile:00.0Beginning of the trail facing south.The trail
runs south or southwest as it descends Backbone
Mountain. It is 10 miles long and drops 1229 feet.
There will always be a river to the your left.
First the North Fork Blackwater River then the
Mile: 0.2Site of the Thomas Roundhouse and Water Tank
On the right side of the trail you'll see several
small cement supports. This is where a large water
tank was located. The steam engines used on the
railroad could only travel so far before needing
to take on water.
Look to your left and you'll see a large cement
slab. This marks the location of the Thomas
Roundhouse. The Roundhouse was where engines were
taken to be serviced. In the center of the picture,
looking through the trees up on the hill, you can
see the old Buxton and Landstreet store. It's the
current home of the Mountain Made Gallery. The store
marks the unoffical dividing line between Thomas
In this picture (circa 1900) taken from the hill
on the other side of the Buxton and Landstreet
Store you can see both the water tank and the
roundhouse in the background.
Mile: 0.4Snyder Run Road Crossing
Mile: 0.5Snyder Run Wye
A wye is triangular shaped arrangement of tracks
with a switch at each corner. It's how you turn a
train around. This wye also lead to the spur line
for Benbush and it's mines.
The tracks and switches are long gone and the
wye is overgrown but you can still see the
raised railbed if you know where to look. In the
second photo I've highlight it's old path.
Here is a link to see a wye at Durbin that's
still in operation.
There is a dip in the trail caused by flooding
down Snyders Run.
If you walk a little ways out the wye towards
Benbush and look back at the trail you can see
the culvert where the trail crosses Snyders
Run. It also shows damage from flooding.
A closer look at the culvert shows that it's
built from cut stone. This indicates it was
constructed when the railroad was first built
in the 1880's. Cut stone was used for all the
original culverts and bridge abutments. Cement
was used for later constructions.The cement
barrier at the top was possibly added when the
railbed was widened for an extra track.
The second photo is taken from the trail looking
back to where we were just standing on the wye.
The cement culvert for the wye has the date
"1943" embedded across the top.
Mile: 0.8Douglas Road Crossing
At this road crossing there is a good sized
gravel lot that straddles the trail. This is one
of the places where you can park your car when
you come to ride the trail.
There are driving directions for this spot at the
Parking In Thomas web page.
Mile: 0.8After crossing Douglas Road the Blackwater Canyon
Trail continues on this gravel road. This road
runs along side the river until it dead ends in
about 1.3 miles at the upper trail gate by Douglas
Mile: 0.9On the right you'll see the remains of a
foundation from Coketon's industrial days.
There were once several coal mines and more than
600 coke ovens in Coketon.
The second photo is a close-up view of the
foundation wall. Notice the railroad rail
sticking out of the wall. Railroad rails being
used as building material is a reocurring theme on
the trail. I think this falls under the heading of
"If all you have is a hammer then every problem
looks like a nail".
Acid Mine Drainage
Just past the 1 mile mark look to you right and
you'll see water raising out of a grate thats
thick with algae and flowing down the right side
of the trail.
The water is Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) pouring
out of what used to be called Davis Coke and Coal
Company Mine #29. There is a picture of the mine
entrance being sealed here.
In 1994 a half mile long wetland-anoxic
limestone drain passive treatment system
was installed to treat the AMD. You'll see
it running along the right side of the trail
almost the entire length of Coketon.
Since it's a passive system most of it's
components are below ground. One part of the
system is an 8 foot deep by 30 foot wide trench
filled with limestone and covered with cattails
and other wetland vegetation.
|There are a series of vertical plastic pipes
down the center of the installation. The pipes
contain both electrical sensors and sampling
hoses. The sensors measure water depth and the
hoses are used to take water samples at different
levels within the trench.
Unfortunately the system is no longer as
effective as when it was first installed.
More information on this AMD site and the
treatment system can be found at WVU Professor
of Soil Science Dr. Jeff Skousen's web site.
On the left side of the trail you'll see this
cement arch. This was part of one of the Coketon
tipples. Coal was loaded into the top of the
tipple which then either transfered it to
railroad cars or used it to fill the coke ovens
via a small rail line that ran across their top.
You can see some coke ovens across the river.
Two of these (I'm not sure which) were the very
first ovens constructed here in 1887 to test
the possibility of coking locally mined coal.
The second photo shows part of the bank of coke
ovens located between the river and the trail.
The coke produced in these ovens
was used in the steel making process. Because of
changes in both mining techniques and steel
production these ovens where no longer in use by
1919. They have sat unused since that time.
Then & Now: How it looked here in 1900.
This view is looking backwards up the trail.
Close-up look at a Coke Oven
You can see that part of the front of the oven
The second photo is taken from the top of the
bank of coke ovens looking down at one.
There are ovens on both sides of the bank.
*Warning* Before you get too close be sure to
check for snakes.
Loose bricks have been stacked inside. You can see
the oculus at the top of the oven is open. Coal
was added to the oven through this opening.
The second photo is looking straight up at the
oculus from inside the oven.
Inside the oven, parts of the wall have this
partially melted appearance. The surface feels
Some of the loose brick are stamped with what
appears to be "MONE W.VA".
Mile 1.4Looking across the trail you will see this line of coke ovens. The panoramic photo makes them appear curved but
they are actually in a straight line. Water is flowing through the AMD treatment trench in front of the ovens.
On the right of the photo are the bank of ovens we were just peering into.
Then & Now: How it looked here in 1960
after all the mining had ended.
Mile: 1.8Douglas Tipple Foundation
On the right of the trail is the remains of the
Douglas Tipple. This marks the boundary between
Coketon and Douglas.
In the woods behind the foundation are several
old support pillars.
Then & Now: How the tipple looked in 1917.
This view is looking back up the trail.
|Then & Now: How the town of Douglas looked in 1918.|
The town of Douglas was named after one of it's
founder's sons. When it was discovered there was
already a town with that name in West Virginia
the Post Office designation was changed to Albert.
Albert was the name of another son.
The falls is next to the town.
On the right of the trail is this small ruin.
It's all that's left of the Douglas Barber Shop.
Ninety year old local resident Anthony Lambruno
remembers when it was "Shave and a hair cut-10
cents" (not two bits).
The company store and Douglas depot were
located to the right of the barbershop directly
next to the trail. All that remains of those
buildings are some foundation stones.
The second photo is of Douglas in 1918. You can
see where the other buildings used to sit in
relation to the barber shop. The barber shop
first opened in 1913. The building has totally
collapsed within just the past year.
Mile: 1.9Long Run Bridge
The bridge has no proper decking. You have to
cross using just the ties.
Look into Douglas and you'll see one of the
original company houses.
Mile: 2.1Upper Gate of the Blackwater Canyon
This Forest Service gate marks the beginning of
Just past the gate on the left is a path that
leads down to the base of Douglas Falls.
(Blackwater Falls smaller cousin)
The first photo is from the bottom of the path
looking up towards the trail.
|Some more pictures of Douglas Falls.|
|After the falls the river quickly drops from
sight. From here it descends 400 feet to where it
merges with the Blackwater River.
The second photo shows the retaining wall just
below the falls. Notice the railroad rail embedded
within the concrete. It appears it was used as
Just past the gate the trail is badly eroded.
The second photo is the view looking back up the
trail to where you can see both the gate and the
Just below the edge of the trail you can see
a retaining wall constructed from nothing but
Mile: 2.2Lookout Point
Then & Now: How Lookout Point appeared in 1908.
The view is looking backwards up the trail.
Mile: 2.7Location of Mountain Station
Then & Now: How it looked here in 1957.
Mile: 2.9Canyon Point
The metal handrail marks Canyon Point. With the
growth coming up through the old roadbed you might
not realize that this is actually a bridge.
When viewed from below you can see it's a
substantial structure. A closer look reveals cut
stone. The original masonry arch was installed
in 1898 after a washout. The concrete
reinforcements are more recent.
You will often see turkey vultures gliding|
directly overhead while at Canyon Point. Must be
something about the air currents in the canyon.
From here there are grand views up and down the
canyon. You can see down into the Blackwater River.
Looking north you can see Pase Point in the
distance. It can be reached by hiking out the
Pase Point Trail from near the Blackwater Falls
State Park Nature Center.
The second photo was taken from Pase Point
looking at Canyon Point. Canyon Point is in the
center of the photo.
|How Blackwater Canyon appears from Pase Point.|
Mile: 3.6Finley Run
Mile: 4.1Looking across the river you can see Lindy Point
Overlook on the eastern rim of Blackwater Canyon.
The overlook is part of Blackwater Falls State
Park. Here are directions to the overlook.
The second photo is a zoomed viewed of the
This is how Blackwater Canyon appears when viewed
from Lindy Point Overlook.
Mile: 4.6The Blackwater River 300 foot below.
Off to the left edge of the trail you can see the
remains of another retaining wall built from
rails. What's left of it is hanging out in mid
air. A sure sign of major trail erosion.
Mile: 4.8Tub Run
You might notice a series of Bearing Trees along|
the right side of the trail.
Each Bearing Tree has a metal plate and are carved
and painted. These indicate the position of buried
Buried down the center of Blackwater Canyon Trail
are a series of these boundary markers. The
boundary line runs down the middle of the trail.
Unfortunately the United States Forest Service
only owns half the trail. The USFS owns the
uphill half. From the middle of the trail down
to the river is owned by a lumber company that
is trying to get permission from the USFS to
turn the trail into a logging road. If they get
the permission the trail would be closed to the
public, the trees would be removed and the
land turned into condominium subdivisions.
If you'd like to stop this from happening, support
Friends of Blackwater Canyon.
|Big Run Culvert
The culvert is located right at mile 6. It is the
largest cut stone structure on the old rail line.
This is the downstream view.
Here is a photo from 1888 showing the
construction of the Big Run Culvert.
Upstream view of the culvert.
|View up Big Run.|
Mile: 7.8Flat Rock Run
Mile: 7.9Forest Service Lower Gate
There is a small parking area just the other side
of the gate where hunters and others will park
after having driven up the trail from Hendricks.
Directly next to the gate is the Limerock Trail.
|Spruce Neck Run is also next to the gate.|
Mile: 8.0Blackwater Canyon Trail is now a gravel road.
Mile:10.0The Blackwater Canyon Trail ends where it meets
Route 72 in the town of Hendricks. Directly
across the road you can see the start of the
Allegheny Highlands Trail.
The second photo shows the end of the trail as
it appears from across Route 72. Cheat
Mountain is in the background.
Even though we have reached the bottom of the
trail there are still a few things to see here in
If you turn left onto Route 72 and go a short
distance to the river. Look up the river and you
can see the last remaining Blackwater River
railroad bridge. It has Western Maryland Railway
written on the side. The West Virginia Central
and Pittsburg Railway was sold in 1902 (just three
years after the rail line through the canyon was
finished) and then became part of the Western
|Head back to the end of the trail and go
across Route 72 to the start of the Allegheny
Highlands Trail (AHT). Just ahead is the Hendricks
Trailhead for the AHT. This is also one of the
possible places you can parking. You can find
directions to this trailhead on the parking page.
The trailhead was the location of the Hendricks
|Then & Now: How it looked here in 1905.|
Next to the trailhead is Second Street. Head down
the street till it ends at the river. There is a
pedestrian suspension bridge across the river.
If you go out to the middle of the bridge and
look upriver you can see where the Blackwater
River joins with the Dry Fork to form the Black
Fork River which the footbridge spans.
Time to head back up the trail. It was a easy
coast downhill. The trip back will take a little