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For millions of years, the region including parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois was drained by a river system now called the Teays, after the Teays Valley of Putnam and Cabell counties. The valley itself was named for an early settler, Stephen Teays. The headwaters of the Teays River included the modern New and Gauley rivers, and the upper Kanawha River. The ancient river diverged from the modern Kanawha at present St. Albans, traveling on through Hurricane, Milton, and Huntington and westward from there. This ancestral river eventually emptied into what is now the Mississippi River near present Springfield, Illinois. Interstate 64 follows the course of the Teays River from Charleston to Huntington, where the valley is approximately one mile wide.

During the Pleistocene Epoch, commonly known as the Ice Age, beginning about two million years ago, continental ice sheets repeatedly advanced and retreated across much of northern North America. The ice never reached present West Virginia, but one of the early advances created an ice dam across the Teays River in the vicinity of Chillicothe, Ohio. The water impounded by the ice dam created what is called Lake Teays or Lake Tight, in honor of its discoverer, geologist W. G. Tight. Lake Tight occupied the valley of the Teays and its tributaries from modern Chillicothe to the vicinity of Hawks Nest State Park in Fayette County. The lake existed for about 10,000 years, during which time new drainage was being established in front of the ice. At least three additional episodes of ponding occurred subsequently.

Approximately 800,000 years ago, the Ohio River system was formed. The Teays Valley between present Nitro and Huntington was abandoned after tributaries of the Teays became the lower Kanawha River from Nitro to Point Pleasant. Hurricane Creek carries most of the surface drainage from the eastern half of the abandoned valley, and the Mud and Guyandotte rivers occupy and drain the western half of the ancestral Teays Valley.

This Article was written by Dewey D. Sanderson

Last Revised on November 05, 2010

Related Articles


Melhorn, Wilton N. & John P. Kempton, eds. Geology and Hydrogeology of the Teays-Mahomet Bedrock Valley System. Boulder: Geological Society of America, 1991.

Fleshman, Nikki & Dewey D. Sanderson. The Ancestral and Modern Mud River Valley. Proceedings of the West Virginia Academy of Science. 1998.

Tight, W. G. Drainage Modifications in Southeastern Ohio and Adjacent Parts of West Virginia and Kentucky. United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 12. United States Geological Survey. .

Cite This Article

Sanderson, Dewey D. "Teays River." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 05 November 2010. Web. 22 July 2024.


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