PRINCETON — Tourists ridding ATVs and motorcycles on the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System have increased Mercer County’s tourist traffic, but making a local river suitable for kayaks and other small boats could give the county’s visitors even more recreation.
The Mercer County Commission recently discussed a project which would open up the Bluestone River to kayaks by both cleaning up the waterway and creating access points for boaters.
“It’s going to be the Bluestone River Water Trail,” County Commissioner Bill Archer said. “It will extend the entire length of the Bluestone River from the West Virginia state line to Summers County. It would be for kayaking and flat boats, and even tubing. I think it’s a growing sport that will eventually compete with whitewater rafting. It’s a little more passive and it’s something people can do to enjoy nature.”
The county commission is currently organizing volunteers who would help make the Bluestone River Water Trail a reality.
“We’re in the process of forming our own group,” Archer stated. “We are developing membership right now. We haven’t elected officers, but there are several people who are like minded in their thoughts of restoring the Bluestone and also making it accessible. People are already taking kayak trips from Bramwell to Montcalm; and we’re developing inputs, places where people can launch their kayaks and flat bottom boats.”
The plan is currently focusing on creating access points along the Bluestone in the Bramwell/Coopers area, in Montcalm, the Spanishburg area, and at Camp Creek, Archer said. The county will be working with the state Department of Natural Resources and other agencies on the project.
“We’ll be able to rearrange some features of the river to make it navigable all the way, and with caution to preserve the habitat of aquatic life. The Bluestone has two native species. There’s a fish called the Bluestone Sculpin and there’s the Tennessee Heelsplitter,” Archer said. “It (a mollusk) is so named because if you walk in the stream with your bare feet you’ll split your heel on it. There’s also all the other fish and aquatic life we can work to preserve. It’s going to be a major job, and hopefully there are already many young people eager to pitch in and help with this project.”