The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Big Meadows

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Farmhouse near Grassy Meadows, WV
The Big Meadows near Dawson, WV

The Big Meadows of western Greenbrier County is a 20-square-mile region of relatively level uplands northwest of the Big Levels and Lewisburg, WV. The scenic Meadow River meanders though its pastures and woodlots before descending into its gorge to the northwest at Rainelle, WV.

The meadows are geologically noteworthy in that the region should be some 1,500 feet higher in elevation than it is, nearing 4,000 feet above sea level, as does Cross Mountain, to the northeast, and Keeney Mountain, to the southwest. Several geologists have speculated that weatherability in the otherwise-resistant strata of the local Allegheny Mountains may have led to more rapid erosion into tablelands. Beaver (Castor canadensisis) have continuously dammed the headsprings of the river into bogs and glades, which, when drained by European settlers in the late 1700s, became level farmland and pasture. Much of the area's rich soil is weathered from the surrounding hills of shale, siltstone, and fine-grained sandstone ledges. The Big Levels of eastern Greenbrier County, and the upland farms of Sewell Mountain, to the northwest, are respectively limestone and sandstone regions.

The I-64 expressway was completed through the meadows in 1989, opening the area to interstate traffic between I-81, in the east, and I-77, at Beckley, WV, in the west. The resulting accessibility opened the region to increased residential and economic development. More than 2,000 acres of forest and wetland are protected for public hunting and fishing and wildlife observation as part of the Meadow River WMA.

Communities within the Big Meadows include Lawn, Vale, Smoot, Rupert, Dawson, Kieffer, Farmdale, Meadow Bluff, Sam Black Church, Clintonville, Grassy Meadows, and Shawver's Crossing.

Larger communities near the meadows, though not within, include Rupert, WV, and Rainelle, WV. Much of the timber in the area was harvested by the Meadow River Lumber Co., owned and operated by John Raines, for whom Rainelle was named. Nearby Meadow Bridge, WV, is located in the Little Meadows of eastern Summers County at the head of Meadow Creek, roughly ten-miles west of the Big Meadows.