What is a water trail? 

A water trail, simply put, is a trail for boats. It consists of a network of access points, resting areas, and points of interest for users of human-powered watercraft on lakes and rivers. The formation of the Cheat River’s main stem marks the start of the Upper Cheat. River Water Trail with several access points near Parsons and Hendricks. The trail covers nearly 40 miles of beautiful water through calm, flat pools and wide, shallow riffles. Currently, nine existing access points allow for trips of various lengths and scenic opportunities. 

The cheat

The Cheat River’s status as one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the eastern United States provides a wealth of recreational opportunities. From some of the most difficult white water runs in West Virginia to some of the best trout fishing throughout Appalachia, the Cheat offers an escape for everyone.

The Cheat’s status as a biodiversity hotspot means wildlife encounters are typical – expect to see a brilliant display of the region’s flora and fauna as you meander through the Water Trail’s scenic valleys, open pastures, and forested mountainsides.

Water Trail Principles

The UCRWT provides recreational, scenic, historical and educational opportunities. By promoting the following principles, the UCRWT Committee will be able to advance these opportunities.



West Virginia’s residents and guests who use water trails share a deep appreciation for the beauty of our lakes, rivers, streams, riversides and wetlands, as well as the communities that thrive there. From either the water or the shore, water trails put people in touch with their emotions regarding natural resources.



Water trails are open to people of all ages and abilities. Tolerance and understanding are fostered through shared work and play.


Local Economics

Water trails as recreational destinations generate income for local businesses including outdoor outfitters, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, campgrounds, grocery stores, gas stations and shops.

Trail History

Designation of the Upper Cheat River as a water trail was made possible by the establishment of the National Water Trails System in February of 2012. The Upper Cheat River Water Trail (UCRWT) is the result of collaborative efforts between members of the UCRWT Committee and its partners. As the primary sponsor, Friends of the Cheat (FOC) embarked on the designation process to acknowledge the recreational value of the trail as well as the stewardship of state, local and private entities that serve to maintain its natural beauty and integrity.

UCRWT Committee meetings are open to the public and new participants are encouraged to attend. The diverse Committee currently includes representatives from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, Kingwood Veterans of Foreign Wars, Blackwater Outdoor Adventures, representatives from both the cities of Rowlesburg and Parsons, as well as the sponsoring organization, Friends of The Cheat.


Community Vitality

A water trail is part of a network of recreational opportunities such as museums, historic sites, and city parks which enhance exploration of the surrounding area. The connections build a sense of pride of place and bind citizens in a love for their community. The water trail community also encourages environmental stewardship, helping to prevent damage to the environment and preserving the natural integrity of the trail and its watershed.

historic sites

Monongahela National Forest

Established in 1920, the 900,000 acre forest straddles the highest ridges in the State. Variations in terrain and precipitation have created one of the most ecologically diverse National Forests in the country.

Seneca Trail

Also known as the Warrior’s Path, Rte. 219 was the Native American’s highway from New York to the south.

Allegheny Highlands Rail-Trail

Accessed in both Hendricks and Parsons, this level rail-trail is good for biking and walking. It runs nearly 25 miles from Elkins to Hendricks.

Minear Massacre Historic Site

Site of 1871 massacre where John Minear and his son, Jonathan, were among those killed.

St. George

Historic town (1776) and academy from whence the County Records were stolen in a successful attempt to move the county seat to Parsons in 1893. St. George changed sides 10 times during the Civil War.

Tray Run Viaduct

Built in 1852 and a focus of the Confederate Jones – Imboden Raid of the Civil War. The structure was considered an engineering marvel of the times, and was included on the back of the West Virginia state seal (0.6 mi. North of Rowlesburg and the northern boundary of the trail- do not try to paddle here).

Railroad Bridge

Site of a Civil War battle and also where George Washington identified (predicted) the easiest grade between the Potomac and Ohio River watersheds.

Cannon Hill

Site of cannon emplacements used for the defense of Rowlesburg and its railroad bridge in the Civil War.

WWII Museum

Housed at the Szilagyi Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in Rowlesburg.

Old Rt. 50 Bridge Abutments

Rt. 50 was an old buffalo trail and Indian Path before becoming a popular east/west route

Allegheny Trail (Section 1)

Runs into Rowlesburg and then along the river near Rt.50.

The Upper Cheat River Water Trail Committee is Friends of the Cheat’s core group of volunteers guiding the Water Trail project. The group strives to meet monthly to discuss access site needs, project and funding opportunities, events, and sometimes we get together to just have fun!


Contact the Committee Chairs, Dave and Pam Ruediger,
304-747-8412 or 304-532-3580 to learn more about the group.

Adopt an Access Site
Call Dave Ruediger, (304-747-8412) or come to the next meeting if you or your group is interested in sponsoring an Access Site or a section of the Trail. We’d love to have you or your group on-board and we can work out details!