Exploring the History of Nuttallburg

The coal tipple (conveyor) in Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The coal tipple (conveyor) in Nuttallburg

Did you know that you can visit old coal mining camps in New River Gorge National Park?  The most famous of these camps is accessed via the Kaymoor Miners Trail on the Fayetteville side of the gorge (not far from the Long Point Trailhead).  However, I opted to take the drive and walk to Nuttallburg instead (on the visitor center side of the gorge).  It’s a crazy drive (high clearance recommended; the gravel road is very steep and narrow), but it’s also fascinating with so much to see and explore.  I especially enjoyed photographing the tipple – a long conveyer that brought coal from the mine (high on the hillside) down to the railroad tracks.

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 1.4 miles Trail Type: Loop with spurs Elevation Gain: 370ft. Pets: Leashed Fees: None

A couple walking the old rails under the end of the tipple, Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
A couple walking the old rails under the end of the tipple

Talking with the rangers, they discouraged me from visiting Nuttallburg.  First, because it’s a long drive.  Second, because the road is so steep and winding.  And third, because it’s not like you’re going to spend hours there.  Every single one of these points is valid and reasonable, and I’m grateful for the rangers for warning me ahead of time.  But I also really enjoyed my visit and would highly recommend it if you can get over the road and the time required to get there.

The remains of the Company Store in Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The remains of the Company Store

We drove down the road as a storm blew over the New River Gorge.  The wind whipped the trees that grow almost up to the edge of the road, and the river along the road roared with the rainfall of the day before.  However, thankfully, it didn’t do much more than spitter-spatter raindrops on the windshield.

The road to Nuttallburg (actually, we're driving back up at this point), New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The road to Nuttallburg (actually, we’re driving back up at this point)

We got to about 3/4 of a mile before the end of the road and found that the road turned to muddy gravel going uphill.  I happened to be driving, so, looking nervously and hoping no one was coming in the other direction, I charged up the incline.  It was the first time on the road that I needed high clearance, and I wouldn’t have minded a bit of 4×4 right then.

Another view of the road to Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Another view of the road

Right about here (at the top of the hill, if I remember correctly) is a signboard about Nuttallburg, its founder, etc.  The Black Church and the Black School are also nearby – according to the signs, besides the segregation, people of other races were actually treated quite fairly when it came to mining and living in the community.

Waterfalls in Short Creek near Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Waterfalls in Short Creek

The road crosses over Short Creek (with some pretty waterfalls) and then descends to the main parking area.  Park here.  The road continues a short distance to a parking area for those with a handicap tag.

The trail junction near the parking area.  Turn left to continue up the road to Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The trail junction near the parking area. Turn left to continue up the road.

A couple of trails leave from the main parking area.  For now, walk up the road past the handicapped parking spaces and then left around an old ruin to the end of the tipple.

Nuttallburg Tipple from the parking-area side of the clearing, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Nuttallburg Tipple from the parking-area side of the clearing

I dropped down along the old railroad tracks first to walk under the end of the tipple.  It’s pretty amazing to see how it likely worked in days of yore.

The ore loading area at the end of the Nuttallburg Tipple, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The ore loading area at the end of the Nuttallburg Tipple

Nuttallburg was created by John Nuttall in 1870.  Mr. Nuttall built infrastructure to extract the coal, hired miners, and generally turned it into a profitable operation.  His descendants continued to run the mine into the 1920s, when the mine was purchased by Henry Ford.  Ford updated and strengthened the infrastructure, including building the tipple, before he sold it in 1928.  The mine changed hands several times and finally ceased production in 1958.

Rusting mining equipment at Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Rusting mining equipment

From there, I walked around the tipple building and then turned left to walk past some rusting machinery and into the woods.  From here, I turned left again to walk along the lower side of the Coke Ovens.

Ruins of some of the coke ovens at Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Ruins of some of the coke ovens

These brick structures were used to take the raw coal ore, mined higher on the hill, and turn it into coke by firing it in an oxygen-deprived environment.  This produced coke or “smokeless coal,” a highly sought-after product for use in blast furnaces.  They say that each chamber could hold approximately 5 tons of coal.

The entrance to a coke oven in Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The entrance to a coke oven

Despite the fact that Henry Ford purchased Nuttallburg to further his steel plants, he did not use the on-site coke ovens for producing “smokeless coal.”  Instead, he shipped the ore to a processing facility in another state.

Ferns growing in the stones of a coke oven at Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Ferns growing in the stones of a coke oven

Most of the coke ovens are being taken over by weeds and wildflowers.  However, many are also still in good condition.  A few you can even see inside well enough to enjoy the interesting construction.

Inside one of the coke ovens at Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Inside one of the coke ovens

At the end of the row of coke ovens is the foundation (ruins?) of the general store.  The miners were paid in tokens that could be redeemed at the store and nowhere else.  Still, there must have been some money involved, since by working for about 10 years and saving their pennies, most miners could buy their own house up on the hill instead of renting a company-owned house closer to the river.

The basement of the old Company Store at Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The basement of the old Company Store

Just beyond the company store, the trail splits.  The trail to the ruins of the town of Seldom Seen (yes, that’s its name) goes straight/left.  We decided that we’d seen enough ruined foundations; we’d turn right and go back along the upper trail around the Coke Ovens.  By this time, the sun had come out – which was a nice change of pace, especially once we got back to the tipple and were able to see it in the sunshine!

The end of the tipple in the sunshine, Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The end of the tipple in the sunshine

I decided to follow the social trail up under the tipple.  It’s very steep as it switchbacks upward.  I hear you can go all of the way up to headhouse and the entrance to the old Nuttallburg coal mine.  I would have loved to do this, but my group member was waiting down below, and I didn’t want to leave him too long.  Besides, we had other places we wanted to visit before the day was out (namely, taking the old road across the gorge and then hiking out to Long Point – my favorite hike in New River Gorge).

Looking up at the tipple from the trail beneath it, Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Looking up at the tipple from the trail beneath it

So I hiked maybe halfway up and then took the trail to the right over to the White Church, White School, and a few other foundations.  The trail (if you follow the signs) will take you back down to the parking area.

The ruins of the foundation of the White Schoolhouse (or White Church... I forget which) in Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The ruins of the foundation of the White Schoolhouse (or White Church… I forget which)

And that’s that!  It’s not a place where you’d want to spend hours and hours, and as I said before, it’s far enough away from the visitor center and Fayetteville that you’d better really want to see it.  But it is a great place to learn about the history of coal mining in West Virginia and see some cool old mining ruins!

Looking down the tipple from part way up the hillside above Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Looking down the tipple from part way up the hillside

Round Trip Trail Length: I walked a total of 1.4 miles

Elevation gain: Including walking up the hill under the tipple, I gained 370ft. (959ft. to 1,095ft.)

Facilities: They say there are primitive restrooms at the trailhead – I don’t recall seeing them, but they’re probably just tucked back in the trees slightly.

Fees: None

Orange Jewelweed Flowers near the coke ovens in Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Orange Jewelweed Flowers near the coke ovens

Trail Notes: It should go without saying that you should stay off of/out of all of the historical features.  You can hike all of the way up to the rim of the gorge if you want to, but it’s highly discouraged due to the steep trail and loose cinders that make up the tread.  (I didn’t have any problem with it, so it must start higher than I went.)  An active rail line does pass just below Nuttallburg, so you may hear or even see the tops of rail cars flashing by at one point or another during your visit.

The end of the rail tracks underneath the end of the Nuttallburg Tipple, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
The end of the rail tracks underneath the end of the tipple

Trail ★★★☆☆

Road ★★★☆☆

Signs ★★★★☆

Scenery ★★☆☆☆

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Looking up into the Nuttallburg Tipple, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Looking up into the tipple

GPS Coordinates for Nuttallburg

Black Church ruins: 38.049060, -81.036643 (38°02.94360′, -081°02.19858′ / 38°02’56.6160″, -081°02’11.9148″) (1,001ft.)

Trailhead: 38.050131, -81.040081 (38°03.00786′, -081°02.40486′ / 38°03’00.4716″, -081°02’24.2916″) (970ft.) (0.0)

Ruins: 38.050536, -81.041951 (38°03.03216′, -081°02.51706′ / 38°03’01.9296″, -081°02’31.0236″) (973ft.) (0.11)

Seldom Seen Junction: 38.051586, -81.045365 (38°03.09516′, -081°02.72190′ / 38°03’05.7096″, -081°02’43.3140″) (991ft.) (0.56)

Climbing up under the Nuttallburg Tipple, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Climbing up under the tipple

White Church: 38.051380, -81.041045 (38°03.08280′, -081°02.46270′ / 38°03’04.9680″, -081°02’27.7620″) (1,094ft.) (1.11)

White School: 38.050920, -81.039775 (38°03.05520′, -081°02.38650′ / 38°03’03.3120″, -081°02’23.1900″) (1,053ft.) (1.26)

Trail junction: 38.050529, -81.039799 (38°03.03174′, -081°02.38794′ / 38°03’01.9044″, -081°02’23.2764″) (1,016ft.) (1.33)

End: 38.050131, -81.040151 (38°03.00786′, -081°02.40906′ / 38°03’00.4716″, -081°02’24.5436″) (970ft.) (1.43)

Greater Tickseed Flowers (I think!) in the meadow under the Nuttallburg Tipple, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Greater Tickseed Flowers (I think!) in the meadow under the tipple

The gpx file for Nuttallburg can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download GPX File size: 30.3 KB Downloaded 47 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

Looking through the supports at the Nuttallburg Tipple, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Looking through the supports at the tipple

Getting to Nuttallburg

From the New River Gorge Visitor Center, drive back out to the main road (US-19; the road that crosses the New River Gorge Bridge) and turn right (away from the bridge).  Take the next right onto Lansing-Edmond Road.  The road is winding and somewhat narrow as it passes by the Endless Wall Trailhead and the Nuttall Trailhead.  Keep driving on the very rural, but still paved, road that winds through forests and farmland.  It’s only 6 miles to the next turn (in the settlement of Winona), but it feels like much more.  Turn right onto Keeneys Creek Road in the town.  From here, it’s 4.1 miles on the increasingly rough, eventually gravel road through the forest to the Nuttallburg Parking Area.

Official map of the trails near Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Official map of the trails near Nuttallburg

Note that the road is very steep, very winding, and is often only one lane wide.  If you meet another vehicle, one of you will probably have to back up until you can get to a wide spot in the road.  This is especially true once you leave Keeney Creek to travel north to the parking area.

Visual trail map and elevation profile for my hike around Nuttallburg, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Visual trail map and elevation profile for my hike around Nuttallburg

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