The Cranberry River flows through the heart of the remote Cranberry backcountry of Greenbrier, Webster, and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia. The river rises on Cranberry Mountain just above the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area at an elevation of 4,600 feet. It meanders sluggishly through the glades and beyond for about seven miles before tumbling through the mountains for another 25 miles to join the Gauley River at an elevation of 1,920 feet. Cranberry River drains 74 square miles inhabited by wildlife and covered with maturing second-growth stands of northern hardwoods, including black cherry, sugar maple, tulip poplar, hemlock, basswood, birch, and various species of oak. Red spruce grows at the highest elevations of the watershed.
The Cranberry region was difficult to get into and not desirable for homesteading. The land was still in pristine condition when the Cherry River Boom & Lumber Company acquired 200,000 acres at the turn of the 20th century. By 1930, the area that is now Cranberry Wilderness was completely logged, and the valuable timber had been hauled to Richwood. Wildfires burned over much of the region following the logging operations. The Civilian Conservation Corps converted some of the old logging railroad grades to U.S. Forest Service roads.
The river is popular with fishermen from throughout the eastern United States. In the spring, kayaks run the section from the Cranberry campground to the river’s mouth. The Forest Service maintains seven camping shelters along the Cranberry River and about 75 miles of hiking trails throughout the back country. The Cranberry River and surrounding landscape lie within the Gauley Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest. The opportunities for wilderness hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, bicycling, camping, and wildlife viewing are excellent.
This Article was written by Emily Grafton
Cite This Article
Grafton, Emily "Cranberry River." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 11 June 2012. Web. 24 January 2017.