Cheat River: Wikis


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Cheat River
The Cheat River from Cooper's Rock Overlook
Country  United States
States  Pennsylvania,  West Virginia
County Fayette PA, Monongalia WV, Preston WV, Tucker WV
 - right Big Sandy Creek
Source Shavers Fork [1]
 - elevation 4,620 ft (1,408 m)
 - coordinates 38°23′50″N 79°59′09″W / 38.39722°N 79.98583°W / 38.39722; -79.98583
Secondary source Black Fork [2]
 - location Hendricks, West Virginia
 - elevation 1,700 ft (518 m)
 - coordinates 39°04′20″N 79°37′45″W / 39.07222°N 79.62917°W / 39.07222; -79.62917
Source confluence
 - location Parsons, WV
 - elevation 1,621 ft (494 m)
 - coordinates 39°07′01″N 79°40′51″W / 39.11694°N 79.68083°W / 39.11694; -79.68083
Mouth Monongahela River [3]
 - location Point Marion, PA
 - elevation 760 ft (232 m)
 - coordinates 39°44′34″N 79°54′08″W / 39.74278°N 79.90222°W / 39.74278; -79.90222
Length 78 mi (126 km) [4]
Basin 1,423 sq mi (3,686 km2) [4]
Discharge for Rowlesburg, WV
 - average 3,880 cu ft/s (110 m3/s) [5]
 - max 7,000 cu ft/s (198 m3/s)
 - min 908 cu ft/s (26 m3/s)
Discharge elsewhere (average)
 - Parsons, WV 3,700 cu ft/s (105 m3/s) [6]
Map of the Monongahela River basin, with the Cheat River highlighted.

The Cheat River is a tributary of the Monongahela River in eastern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania in the United States. Via the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, it is part of the Mississippi River watershed.



The Cheat is formed at Parsons, West Virginia by the confluence of its Shavers and Black Forks; the Black Fork is fed by the Blackwater River and the Dry, Glady, and Laurel Forks, all of which are considered primary forks of the Cheat. From Parsons the river flows generally northward through Tucker and Preston Counties, past the towns of Rowlesburg and Albright. The Cheat flows through an impressive gorge — Cheat Canyon — northeastwardly from Albright, collecting Big Sandy Creek before entering Monongalia County, where a hydro-electric dam just south of the Pennsylvania border causes it to widen as the Cheat Lake reservoir. It then flows for a short distance through southwestern Fayette County, Pennsylvania before joining the Monongahela River at Point Marion, Pennsylvania. Upstream of its dam, the Cheat is one of the largest undammed watersheds in the eastern United States.

Cheat Mountain, a high and rugged ridge, runs about 50 miles (80 km) southward starting at its northernmost tip, just a few miles west of the confluence at Parsons.


The Delaware Indian name for Cheat was reportedly Ach-sin-ha-nac meaning "stony river". "Cheat River" is variously reported to have been named for (1) a French explorer (or an Indian) named Cheat or Chaet, (2) an abundance of cheat grass along its banks (possibly a misidentification of frost-killed wheat), or (3) deceptively deep sections containing whirlpools that presumably "cheated" men of their lives by drowning them. None of these theories has good documentary support, but the one referring to deep pools and drowning is probably most often cited. (A relatively recent source states that Cheat Mountain got its name because so many loggers had been cheated of their lives while working on it, an apparent variation of the Cheat River story.)

Historical names

According to the Geographic Names Information System,[3] the Cheat River has formerly been known as:

  • Ach-sin-ha-nac
  • Achsinhanac
  • Cheal River
  • Chealt River
  • Eleat River
  • Wilmoths River


Early history

"From 1765 to 1774 there were comparatively few attacks made upon the white colonists by the Indians. The Treaty of Paris (1763) resulted in general peace along the frontiers, had been pretty generally adhered to by all the savage tribes. The peace, however, which had for nine years blessed and fostered the frontier settlements, was suddenly broken by the murder of several friendly Indians, in 1774, on the Monongahela and Cheat rivers. This unfortunate aggression on the part of these white men gave rise to a general raid by the Indians upon all the settlements of the frontier.", to quote George W Atkinson (1876).[7]

The Virginia General Assembly authorized the first two ferries on the Cheat River in 1806. On January the 2nd, a ferry in Monongalia County was approved on Charles Stuart property to James Stafford property. On January the 18th, the Assembly authorized the second ferry in Monongalia County from the forge location of Samuel Jackson to Charles Magill property. Another act in 1806 authorized to conduct a lottery to fund the construction of a toll bridge across Cheat River near Dunker Bottom Monongalia County. Concerned included Michael Kern, John Stealy, Augustus Werninger, Ralph Barkshire, and William N. Jarrett. The Assembly also authorized in 1806 mill dams construction across the Monongahela River, Cheat River, Tyger Valley River, or the West Fork of the Monongahela River.[8]

A state militia facility, Camp Dawson, was established on the banks of the Cheat in Preston County 1909 and continues in operation today.

1985 flood

In November 1985, heavy rains caused a massive flood on the Cheat, essentially wiping out the small town of Albright. The river flow was estimated at 190,000 cubic feet per second, much larger than normal flows ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 cubic feet per second. The massive flood also caused the Cheat River to leave its banks and flood the small town of Rowlesburg, West Virginia. The town of Rowlesburg lost a lot of business and many families left their homes or the land that they owned. The flood also wiped out the school in Rowlesburg, which caused the consolidation of a high school for the county.


The Cheat River at Rowlesburg, West Virginia

In the vicinity of Albright, the Cheat has been plagued by pollution, notably acid mine drainage. Although the rocks downstream of Albright have been stained a rust brown, and the river has a very low fish population below Albright, water quality has been making slow improvements since the 1990s. Friends of the Cheat, the local river advocacy organization, has been instrumental in promoting remediation, cleanup, river stewardship, and education.

Whitewater recreation

The Cheat Canyon section of the Cheat River (from Albright, WV to Jenkinsburg, WV), which features Class IV rapids (and Class V rapids at upper levels), has become a favorite destination for whitewater kayaking and rafting. On the first weekend in May of every year, paddlers gather from many states to attend the Cheat Festival. A very popular whitewater race—The Cheat River Race—takes place in the 10-mile (16 km) Cheat Canyon on the Friday of that weekend. Unlike the overwhelming majority of whitewater races, which employ a staggered start, this race uses a mass start (in which all participants start at the same time). For the first few miles, paddlers must avoid one another, in addition to the whitewater hazards that the river presents. The race, which usually attracts 150 people, is often cited at the largest whitewater race in existence. For more information, please see the Cheat Canyon Downriver Race website at

The Cheat Narrows section of the Cheat River (upstream of Albright, WV) is also utilized by whitewater paddlers, and features Class II and III rapids.

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographical Names Information System: Shavers Fork, retrieved March 13, 2007.
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographical Names Information System: Black Fork
  3. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographical Names Information System: Cheat River
  4. ^ a b Kosky, James P.E.; Lessons Learned: Cheat River and Tygart River Flood Warning Systems; retrieved from March 13, 2007.
  5. ^ United States Geological Survey; USGS 03069870 CHEAT RIVER AT HWY 50 NEAR ROWLESBURG, WV; retrieved March 13, 2007.
  6. ^ United States Geological Survey; USGS 03069500 CHEAT RIVER NEAR PARSONS, WV; retrieved March 13, 2007.
  7. ^ "History of Kanawha County", George W Atkinson, Charleston, WV, 1876.
  8. ^ West Virginia Culture Organization, Online Archives, s

External links

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