MILL CREEK FALLS AND GORGE
|Address:||Old Mill Creek Road, Charleston, WV 25311. No 911 address is assigned to a property without structures.|
Randy S. "Riverbend" Burdette 304-667-2897, David Sibray 304-575-7390
MAPS & DOCUMENTS-CLICK LINKS TO VIEW
Mill Creek Falls and Gorge Google Earth map (Foxfire)
Mill Creek Falls and Gorge topographic map (Foxfire)
Mill Creek Falls and Gorge general location map (Foxfire)
Mill Creek Falls and Gorge location map 1 (Foxfire)
Mill Creek Falls and Gorge location map 2 (Foxfire)
Mill Creek Falls and Gorge location map 3 (Foxfire)
Mill Creek Falls and Gorge area map (Foxfire)
Mill Creek Falls and Gorge state map (Foxfire)
Mill Creek Falls & Gorge at Charleston
Fewer than five miles from the state capitol, this 16-acre woodland preserves one of the lesser-known scenic resources in the lower Kanawha Valley—the falls of Mill Creek and its gorge. Near Coonskin Park and West Virginia International Yeager Airport, the property is ideally suited for tourism or residential development. The state proposed in 1965 that the falls and surrounding gorge be preserved as a park, though the property remains in the care of private owners and has been managed only as a Charleston-area retreat.
- Scenic Mill Creek And Its High Falls
- More Than 16 Wooded Acres
- More Than A Mile Of Woodland Trail
- Ecologically Sustained
- Adjoins 225 Acres Of Forestland
- 1 Mile To The Elk River Trail Extension
- 4 Miles To Yeager Airport
- 4.8 Miles To W.Va. Capitol
- 5 Miles To Coonskin Park Entrance
- 5 Miles To Downtown Charleston
- Proximity To Expressways I-77, I-79, I-64
Proposed the site of a nature park in the 1960s, the property was referred to by the W.Va. Dept. of Natural Resources as a “Shangri-La,” and state officials encouraged Kanawha County officials to preserve the site. However, the property has remained private, and its stewards have carefully preserved the scenic landscape.
The acreage includes its namesake waterfalls as well as cliffs and caves, the stone ruins of a millers house, and a two-acre flat that has been developed as a camping area. Other highlights include a tree house and towering oaks, beeches, and hemlocks that shade an understory of fern, mosses, and rhododendron.
Google Coordinates: 38.385291°(N), -81.553144°(W)
Address: Old Mill Creek Road, Charleston, WV 25311. No 911 address is assigned to a property without structures.
Elevation Range: 695 ft. to 872 ft. +/-
As early as the 1820s, a mill was established at the upper falls of Mill Creek to serve farmers on the lower Elk River. Its 20-foot drop provided a source of water power that served a series of mills into the early 20th century. During the Civil War, when Charleston was occupied by Confederate troops, a band of soldiers attempted to commandeer the miller’s horses. According to a local legend, he was able to hide his string in caves in the surrounding gorge.
Even after the demise of milling in the 1920s, the falls remained a favorite hiking and picnicking spot. Yet, the development of new roads in the area circumvented the mill grounds, and the scenic gorge and its falls were forgotten by many. In 1939, Charleston businessman Edward F. Kotch began assembling properties in and around the falls to create a retreat, though his plans never came to fruition. The property has since remained in the hands of stewards who have preserved its scenic nature.
ABOUT MILL CREEK AND ITS FALLS
Mill Creek descends over nine winding miles through the forests that extend southeast of the Elk River. Near its mouth, at the property, the creek enters a wooded canyon some 200 feet deep. Its geology is more typical of the higher mountains east toward the New River Gorge and features sandstone cliffs and tumbled boulders. Unlike many other streams in the region, its bed is smooth and rocky rather than muddy and accommodates wading.
Two layers of sandstone outcrop in the gorge. The upper strata form extensive cliffs along the canyon walls. The lower strata form the waterfall and the bed of the stream, which is alternately smooth and pebbly and accommodates wading. At the falls, the creek drops 20 feet over the lower layer of sandstone, plunging into a pool and smooth bed of rock. Three hundred feet downstream, it drops another five feet over a second waterfall on its course to the Elk River.
ABOUT THE TREEHOUSE
Built in 2005 by Treehouse Masters affiliate Jonathan Farrow of Living Tree, the treehouse is raised on three mature trees 25 feet above the driveway and 60 feet above the falls. Sided in cedar shakes and roofed in metal, the treehouse cabin is secured to a 16-x-20-foot platform and includes a single 10-x-12-foot room with a sleeping loft. Anderson windows provide exceptional views of the property in all directions.
The treehouse was designed to take advantage of the view of the falls while preserving the viewshed of the falls from other angles. The cabin is wired for 100 amp service. The treehouse is currently accessible by ladder.
ABOUT THE CAMPGROUND
A level field of approximately one acre has been maintained as a creekside camping and picnicking area. Above the floodplain, it has been proposed as a homesite area. Once the site of the miller’s residence, stone ruins at a corner of the campground area include a cold cellar with a steeply pitched stone roof, notably uncharacteristic of the area. The campground area is accessed directly by the graveled driveway that leads approximately a quarter mile from the entrance.
ABOUT THE CLIFFS AND CAVES
The south-facing wall of the gorge is lined with cliffs and caves, including an overhanging rock shelter extending more than 200 feet along the gorge wall. This relatively large shelter, also known as a crepuscular or “twilight” cave, may have been used by prehistoric and early historic inhabitants of the region, though no archaeological investigation has been performed. A portion of the cliffs includes areas of honeycomb weathering. These rocky areas are accessible by footpaths that wander up the steep wall of the gorge from the creekside.
HISTORY & PREHISTORY
Though no archaeological study of the property has been performed, scholars have identified evidence of several cultures in the region, notably a mound-building culture that inhabited the region from about 800 B.C. to 500 A.D. These people raised large ceremonial mounds in valley areas, including large extant mounds at Dunbar and South Charleston and a small mound nearby at Pinch. Various native groups lived and hunted the area until the early 1800s. The Shawnee, arriving from west of the Ohio River, contested Virginian settlers for control of the landin the late 1700s. Indian Creek, which parallels Mill Creek one mile to the northeast, was named for a Native American trail that traversed the area.
As early as the 1820s, a grist mill was established at the falls to serve farmers on the lower Elk River and along the nearby Kanawha. Its drop provided a source of water power that served a series of mills that existed here into the early 20th century. During the Civil War, when the Kanawha Valley near Charleston was occupied by Confederate troops, a band of soldiers attempted to commandeer the horses that belonged to the miller. According to legend, he hid his string in caves in the surrounding gorge.
After the demise of milling, the falls remained a favorite picnic spot. Yet, the development of new roads in the area circumvented the mill grounds, and the scenic gorge and its falls were forgotten by many. In 1939, Charleston businessman Edward F. Kotch began assembling properties in and around the falls in hopes of creating a retreat, though his plans never came to fruition. The property has since remained in the hands of stewards who have preserved its scenic nature.
The micro-climate at the property is relatively cool and pleasant in summer. Thanks to the cooling effect of the creek and shading by the gorge and forest, the local air temperature is typically several degrees cooler than that in the adjacent Elk and Kanawha valleys in summer. The climate in the region is otherwise classified as humid subtropical and features hot summers and cool winters and more than the average amount of rainfall. The average July high in the Kanawha Valley is 86 degrees. The average January low is 24. Charleston averages 46 inches of rain a year and 28 inches of snow. It enjoys a relatively long growing season, extending from April 15 to October 15.
For nearly 100 years, owners have taken great care to maintain the property’s forest environment. Several of its older trees now reach more than 100 feet skyward. The forest is classified as oak and hickory and includes beech, poplar, sycamore, and eastern hemlock. Understory trees include laurels and magnolias, both of which flower profusely in spring and early summer. Spring wildflowers include lady’s slipper and azure bluets, which blossom on boulders above the falls.
The property is located in a transitional zone between the metropolitan Kanawha Valley and the mountainous forest region south of the lower Elk River Valley. As a result, it is inhabited by a wide variety of native species, principally smaller mammals, including squirrel, raccoon, and opossum, as well as some larger species, including white-tailed deer and, occasionally, bear, which do not den on or near the property. Wild turkey and blue herons are frequent visitors, and kingfishers are often observed following the creek line. Bobcats likely hunt the property with regular frequency. Amphibians and reptiles such as turtles, frogs, and salamanders are common along the stream and in the surrounding soils and indicate an ecologically healthy environment.
West Virginia is one of the states in the US that has two ownership titles, those being SURFACE RIGHTS and MINERAL RIGHTS. A title search for mineral rights ownership has not been conducted. All rights the owner has will convey with the property. A mineral title search could be conducted by a title attorney at the same time when the surface title search is being conducted.
BOUNDARIES AND SURVEY
The owner’s deed contains a metes and bounds description for the property. The property is being sold by the boundary and not by the acre.
Water: West Virginia-American Water
Electricity: American Electric Power
Telephone: Frontier Communications
Internet: Frontier, Optimum, Starlink
Cellphone Coverage: Various Carriers
The deed description references corners as being on both sides of and specific boundary lines running with Kanawha County Secondary Route No. 48.
Kanawha County has some zoning and subdivision regulations. All prospective buyers should consult the County Government and also the Health Department for regulations regarding zoning, building codes, and installation of water wells and septic systems.
PROPERTY TYPE/USE SUMMARY
The property has been used as a campground and for recreational uses
DEED and TAX INFORMATION
Deed Information: DB 2868 Pg. 861
Kanawha County, West Virginia
Acreage: 16 acres +/-
Real Estate Tax ID/Acreage/Taxes:
Kanawha County (20), West Virginia
Elk District (15)
Tax Map 45 Parcel 80.2; Class 3
2022 Real Estate Taxes: $68.04
Kanawha County School District
Public Elementary School:
Elk Elementary Center
Public Middle School:
Elkview Middle School
Public High School:
Capital High School
Charleston is a hub where air, rail, road, and river transportation converge. AIR: Nearby Yeager Airport is West Virginia’s largest airport and is served by Delta, Spirit, United, and American. Its busiest domestic routes are Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando, and Washington. It is also home to the McLaughlin Air National Guard Base. RAIL: Amtrak provides tri-weekly service to Charleston via its Cardinal route to Chicago, Washington, and New York City. RIVER: The Great Kanawha River is navigable from the Ohio River 91 miles upstream to Kanawha Falls, well above the upper reach of the City of Charleston at 64 miles. In addition, 2.2 miles of the Elk River is navigable from its mouth on the Kanawha River to Etowah at Mink Shoals near Coonskin Park. ROAD: The property is located near the intersection of Interstates 79, 77, 64, all of which converge at Charleston. More than 96,000 vehicles pass through the city daily on the interstate system. Distances to notable nearby cities — 134 miles to Columbus; 156 miles to Morgantown; 157 miles to Lexington; 165 miles to Cincinnati; 170 miles to Pittsburgh; 186 miles to Greensboro; 189 miles to Akron; 218 miles to Cleveland; 220 miles to Charlotte; 220 miles to Durham; 224 miles to Louisville; 360 miles to Washington; 490 miles to Chicago; 500 miles to Atlanta; and 530 miles to New York City.
ABOUT THE REGION
Mill Creek is a tributary of the lower Elk River, which is a tributary of the Great Kanawha River. The rivers converge about five miles west of the property in the City of Charleston. The area is contained within the Charleston Metropolitan Statistical Area, the largest metropolitan area entirely within West Virginia an estimated 255,020 residents in 2021.
CITY OF CHARLESTON
Charleston is the capital and most populous city in West Virginia with a population of 48,864 as of the 2020 census. The first permanent settlement, Fort Morris, was built in 1773. The town of Charleston was incorporated in 1794, not long before the first mill on Mill Creek was established. Charleston’s growth through the 1800s was fueled by the gas and salt industries, which developed at the Kanawha Salines. The first natural gas well in the U.S. was drilled at the foot of present-day Brooks Street in 1815. The city was and is a center for hospitality. The Daniel Boone Hotel, now a luxury office building, was one of many hotels that gained worldwide fame in the city. The highest concentration of hotels in West Virginia continues to be at Charleston. The city population was estimated at 48,018 in 2021.
CITY OF SOUTH CHARLESTON
On the south bank of the Kanawha River opposite Charleston, the City of South Charleston was established in 1906 and incorporated in 1917. In 1925, Union Carbide Corp. opened a large petrochemical plant in South Charleston on Blaine Island and launched the production of several ethylene-based chemicals. By the late 1920s, several industries had been located within the community — chemical plants, glass plants, and a U.S. government armor and projectile plant. South Charleston is now a residential community favored by its mild weather and centrality within the Charleston Metropolitan Area. Its population was 13,639 in 2020. The city is also known for its diversity of restaurants.
Elk River Trail State Park
The Elk River Trail State Park follows the Elk River through central West Virginia and is principally a rail trail. It includes a 54-mile trail along the south bank of the river from near Duck to near Clendenin, some 13 miles upstream of the property. However, plans call to extend the trail to Charleston and across the mouth of Mill Creek, approximately one mile from the property.
More than 1,000 wooded acres have been preserved in Coonskin Park, a county recreational park along the Elk River that approaches within a half mile of the falls property. It includes a swimming pool, fishing lake, nine-hole golf course, and a 3,000-seat soccer stadium, picnic areas, a driving range, game courts, a skateboard park, an amphitheater, and 15 picnic shelters.
W.Va. State Capitol
Dominated by the gilded dome of the West Virginia statehouse, the capitol complex at Charleston is a central feature of government and culture in the Mountain State. In addition to accommodating the legislature and executive branches of the government, its museum and cultural center and manicured lawns host a panoply of year-round festivals and events. The capitol is 4.7 miles from the falls property by way of Greenbrier Street.
West Virginia International Yeager Airport is the largest airport in West Virginia and accounts for more than half of all flights that depart from the Mountain State. More than 225,150 passenger enplanements were logged by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2021. Delta, Spirit, United, and American serve the airport. Its busiest domestic routes are Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando, and Washington. Its central terminal is a three-mile drive from the falls property.
Driving Destination Google Coordinates: 38.385291°(N), -81.553144°(W)
STATE CAPITOL: From I-77/64 at the capitol exit, follow Greenbrier Street (WV-112) north 4.6 miles to a righthand turn onto Old Mill Creek Road (CR-48). Follow the latter 0.5 miles to a gate at the property entrance at left.
BIG CHIMNEY: From I-79 at the Big Chimney exit, follow WV-114 south 2.6 miles through Big Chimney and across the Elk River to a sharp lefthand turn onto Old Mill Creek Road (CR-48). Follow the latter 0.5 miles to a gate at the property entrance at left.
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- Wonderful West Virginia Magazine
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