The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Monongahela River

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The valley of the Monongahela River from Fairmont, WV to the West Virginia-Pennsylvania state line is comparitively narrow and the tributaries are small and relatively unimportant. The hills are close to the river and there is but little bottom land.

Monongahela River

The 128-mile Monongahela River starts at Fairmont, WV, and ends at Pittsburgh, PA where the river meets the Allegheny River, to form the Ohio River. Generally flowing northward, the Monongahela River is formed by the Tygart River and the West Fork River about 1.4 miles above Fairmont, WV. In the State of West Virginia, the Monongahela River traverses Marion and Monongalia Counties and flows for approximately 37 miles to the Pennsylvania - West Virginia border.

The Monongahela River is used for freight, recreational boating, fishing, drinking and industrial water supplies, and waste water discharge. Three navigation lock and dam structures, which are operated by the Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District, exist within the upper Monongahela River area. The three navigation structures include the Morgantown Lock and Dam at river mile 102.0, Hildebrand Lock and Dam at mile 108.0 and Opekiska Lock and Dam at mile 115.4.


Topo Map (Head)
Topo Map (Mouth)


The Cheat River is the most important tributary in West Virginia. It joins the Monongahela at Point Marion, Pennsylvania, about two miles below the West Virginia-Pennsylvania state line. Practically all the drainage area of the Cheat River lies in West Virginia.

Early Navigation on the Monongahela River

In 1783 the Virginia Assembly passed an for the clearing and extending of the navigation on the Monongahela and West Fork rivers. Before the year 1820, several steamers had ascended the Monongahela some distance but the first to reach Morgantown was the Reindeer, on Sunday, April 29th, 1826. The first steamboat to reach Fairmont was the Globe, on February 11, 1850. In 1852 the steamer Thomas P. Ray made frequent trips on the river but navigation was not firmly established until the Federal Government completed the system of locks and dams which now insures navigation throughout the year.

Origin of Name: Monongahela

The source of the river's name, Monongahela, is said to originate from the name given to the river by a Native American tribe, that some sources name as the Delaware tribe, meaning "river with the sliding banks" or "high banks that break off and fall down".

Variant Names

Variant names for the Monongahela River include:

Manaungahela River, Me-nan-gi-hil-li, Meh-non-au-au-ge-hel-al, Mehmannaunringgehlau, Mehmannauwinggehla, Mo-hon-ga-ly River, Mo-hon-galy River, Mo-hon-gey-e-la River, Mo-hong-gey-e-la River, Mohungahala River, Mohunghala River, Monaung River, Monaungahela River, Monna River, Monnyahela River, Monona River, Mononga River, Monongahalia River, Monongahaly River, Monongaheley River, Monongahelia River, Monongalia River, Monongalo River, and Mononguhela River. Mononyahela River, Muddy River