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Kanawha Falls, the largest waterfall in West Virginia, is an important natural landmark. The falls are located on U.S. 60 in Fayette County, just downstream from Gauley Bridge, where the New and Gauley rivers converge to create the Kanawha River. The community of Kanawha Falls is downstream from the falls on the east bank, with Glen Ferris located at the falls on the west bank.

Water drops more than 20 feet at the falls, which cross the Kanawha River in an irregular line. This forms a formidable natural barrier, establishing the boundary between the New River and Kanawha River ecological systems. The falls prevent the upstream movement of fish, with many fewer species in the multi state river basin above the falls.

The falls were a popular stopping place on the James River & Kanawha Turnpike. Aaron Stockton settled there about 1812, and by the 1830s had opened an inn to accommodate this trade. His inn, now called Glen Ferris Inn and still open for business, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since about 1900 the falls have been augmented by a low dam along the crest. Hydroelectric power has been generated there for more than a century by the Union Carbide company and its predecessors and successors, the electricity used mainly in the production of metal alloys at nearby company facilities. A thriving community developed around these industrial activities in the early decades of the 20th century. The shallow lake created by the dam and falls extends upstream to Gauley Bridge, combining with the mountain setting to create one of the most picturesque views in West Virginia.

Last Revised on December 07, 2010


Comstock, Jim, ed. West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia vols. 10 & 11. Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1974.

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e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Kanawha Falls." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 07 December 2010. Web. 22 June 2024.


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