The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Big Sandy River

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The drainage area of the Big Sandy River lies in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. Its total area is about 4,140 square miles, of which about 940 square miles, or 23 per cent, are located in West Virginia.

The portion of the drainage basin of the Big Sandy which lies in West Virginia is a narrow strip along the southwestern edge of the state about 115 miles in length with an average width of about 8 miles; at a few places the divide is only 3 or 4 miles from the river.

The New River-Pocahontas coal formation occurs from the sources to the mouth of Panther Creek. At this point the Allegheny-Kanawha formation begins and continues on down to about 5 miles below Louisa, KY.

Big Sandy River

The Big Sandy is formed by the union of the Tug and Levisa Forks at Lousia, Kentucky, from which point it flows in a northerly direction to the Ohio River at Catlettsburg, Kentucky. Throughout its length the Big Sandy form the boundary line between Kentucky and West Virginia.

Both the Tug and Levisa Forks have their sources on the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains in the extreme western end of Virginia. Tug Fork, from its sources flows in a northwesterly direction to its mount at Louisa. For a short distance below the boundary line of McDowell County it froms the boundary line between Virginia and West Virginia; for the remainder of its length it forms the boundary between Kentucky and West Virginia. levisa Fork, from its sources flows in a northwesterly direction to Paintsville, Kentucky, where it turns northeasterly and joins the Tug Fork at Louisa.


Topo Map (Head)
Topo Map (Mouth)


There are but two tributaries of any size in West Virginia, Dry Fork and Pidgeon Creek.

Name Origin

Some source claim the Big Sandy River was called the "Chat-ter-a-wha," by a (unidentified) Native American tribe, meaning "the river of sandbars."

Variant Names

Big Sandy Creek, Chatarrawa, Chattararawha, Chattaroi, Chatterio, Great Tattaroy River, Sandy Creek, Si-ke-a, Si-ke-a-ce-pe, Tateroy, Tatterio, To-ter-a, To-ter-as, To-ter-oy, Totteroi, Totteroy Creek, We-pe-pe-co-ne, We-pe-po-co-ne-ce-pe-we