New Canoe & Kayak Boat Launch on the Blackwater River

The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge has been in the process of installing an official boat launch on the Blackwater River for over a year now. Their efforts have come to fruition. On May 25th the Tucker County Chamber of Commerce joined the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge outside the mountain town of Davis for an official ribbon cutting. Along with County Commissioners, various State and County entities, staff, and volunteers, all of which make projects like this possible.


I must admit, the boat launch has come as a pleasant surprise to the local community. We are ecstatic about the future plan for an entire river trail being developed on the upper Blackwater River’s meandering water ways. If the locals are excited, you should be too.


Ron Hollis, Director of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and his staff were on hand to walk us through the current river access initiatives and what we can expect in the future. First, and most importantly, the boat launch is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. The current Brown Mountain parking lot will be doubled in size. An ADA compliant trail from the parking lot to the boat launch will be completed for the 2019 spring/summer season. By 2021, seven miles of Camp 70 Road will see a complete resurfacing, crowning, and water mitigation as part of the long term project goals.


Davis, West Virginia resident and challenged athlete, Eric Thompson, collaborated with the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge to make sure the end product is 100% accessible for all. Eric is also responsible for the creation of West Virginia On The Go Inc. A nonprofit whose mission is to promote community (ADA) Accessibility, Accessible recreation, and Advocate for the Rights of People with Disabilities. For additional information or if you are interested in supporting West Virginia On The Go visit their web site


Once the ribbon was cut, it was now time for demonstrations on how the dock functions. As a long time canoe and kayak enthusiast, I have never seen a more handy boat launch before. Once the kayaks and stand up paddle boards were launched, smiles for miles were on the faces of participants, visionaries, and construction crews. Don’t take this the wrong way, but it was good to see Eric make an unplanned wet exit from his boat into the river. He demonstrated how the launch was the easiest way to pull himself out of the river (FYI, Eric is paralyzed from the rib cage down). Eric got back onto the dock and into his kayak all by himself. Very educational and inspirational!


As the boat launch and river trail evolve, more details on take outs and starting points will become formal with signage and kiosks. For the time being, river travel without a shuttle set up is possible by paddling up stream. The water current at summer time levels is slow enough that ease of upstream travel is absolutely possible. I recommend you start by paddling upstream first, rather than down. This will ensure a manageable end of day return trip to the Brown Mountain Parking Lot. The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge has absolutely stepped up their recreational experience game as of late. From purpose built trails at the Beall Trail System, and now a professional boat launch on the Blackwater River. Kudos to Ron and the staff at the refuge.