The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Elk River

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Elk River near Strange Creek after a summer storm

The drainage basin of the Elk River is located in about the central part of the state, and is long and comparatively narrow, bing some what bow shaped. It is bounded on the east and north by the Little Kanawha River, Tygart River, and Cheat River basins, and on the south and west by the Gauley and Greenbrier rivers. The Allegheny-Kanawha coal formation occurs throughout the basin, the western divide of the basin being approximately the western boundary of the formation.

Elk River

The river rises in the western part of Pocahontas County, against the summit of Spruce Knob, 7.5 miles northwest of Marlinton, WV; from there it flows in a northwesterly direction across the souther corner of Randolph County, across Webster County to near Sutton in Braxton County, and across Clay and Kanawha counties, joining the Kanawha River at Charleston, WV. Its drainage area is about 1,550 square miles.


Topo Map (Mouth)


The principal tributaries of the Elk River are the Birch River, Holly River, and Blue, Buffalo, Big Sandy, and Little Sandy creeks.


The Elk River was an invaluable means of transporting large rafts of logs and crossties, as well as large freight canoes, to the river's mouth at Charleston, WV during the 1800's and early-1900's. Since there was no lock and dam system along any portion of its course, transportation on the Elk was confined mostly to its flood stages during the spring and winter months. The Elk lost its importance in this respect on the completion of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), the Coal & Coke Railroad (C&C) and other railroads into the region.

Name Origin

Some sources claim the Native American tribe, the Shawnee, called the Elk River, Tis-kel-wah, meaning "river of fat elk." The Delaware tribe is said to have called it Pe-quo-ni, meaning "the walnut river."

Variant Names

Dry Fork - in part, Pe-quo-ni, Pe-quo-ni-cepe, Pequoni, Tis-chil-waugh, Tiskelewah, Tiskelwah, To-que-man, To-qui-min-cepe