Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Buckhannon River


The Buckhannon River is the namesake of the city of Buckhannon and the principal waterway of Upshur County. It provides public drinking water for much of Upshur County. Historically, the river provided power for gristmills and river sand for a variety of purposes. The Buckhannon River has always been a source of entertainment and recreation. At the turn of the 20th century, tour boats navigated the river, and swimmers, rafters, boaters, and fishermen still enjoy the stream today.

The Buckhannon River forms near Pickens, from three tributaries known as the Left and Right forks and the Left Fork of Right Fork. The forks converge to form the main river just inside the Upshur County line, and the Buckhannon River then travels north through the Upshur communities of Alton, Sago, Buckhannon, and Hall. Nearly 47 miles long, the Buckhannon River empties into the Tygart Valley River near Carrollton in Barbour County. The elevation at the headwaters of the Buckhannon is 3,750 feet, dropping to 1,310 feet at its mouth. In addition to the Left and Right forks, the main tributaries include Big Sand Run, Fink Run, and French Creek. The river, which begins as a cold-water trout stream in Randolph County and changes to a warm-water stream farther north on its course, is considered by fishermen to be one of the best muskie streams in the state. Bass, walleye, and native brook trout also inhabit its waters.

According to local belief, the river was named after Delaware Indian war leader Buckongahelas (or Buckongehanon). Other historians credibly attribute the origin of the name to that of Colonel John Buchanan, an officer of Augusta County which originally included the Buckhannon River watershed.

Written by Kim Howard


  1. Hardesty's Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia vol. 2. Chicago: H. H. Hardesty, 1883, Reprint, Richwood: Comstock, Hardesty West Virginia Counties, 8 vols., 1973.

  2. Tenney, Noel W.. The First One Hundred Years, Early History of the Buckhannon Community, 1760s to 1860s. The Upshur County Historical Society Newsletter& Journal, Spring 2016.