Elk River (West Virginia)

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Elk River
River
Elk River Charleston.jpg
Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia.
CountryUnited States
StateWest Virginia
CountiesPocahontas, Randolph, Webster, Braxton, Clay, Kanawha
Tributaries
 - leftBirch River
 - rightHolly River
SourceOld Field Fork [1]
 - locationElk Mountain, Pocahontas County, WV
 - elevation3,557 ft (1,084 m) [2]
 - coordinates38°18′24″N 80°06′18″W / 38.30667°N 80.10500°W / 38.30667; -80.10500
Secondary sourceBig Spring Fork [3]
 - locationPocahontas County, WV
 - elevation3,655 ft (1,114 m) [4]
 - coordinates38°22′32″N 80°00′34″W / 38.37556°N 80.00944°W / 38.37556; -80.00944
Source confluence
 - locationSlatyfork, WV
 - elevation2,667 ft (813 m) [5]
 - coordinates38°25′08″N 80°07′48″W / 38.41889°N 80.13000°W / 38.41889; -80.13000
MouthKanawha River [6]
 - locationCharleston, WV
 - elevation574 ft (175 m)
 - coordinates38°21′18″N 81°38′42″W / 38.35500°N 81.64500°W / 38.35500; -81.64500
Length172 mi (277 km) [7]
Dischargefor Queen Shoals, WV
 - average2,650 cu ft/s (75 m3/s) [8]
 - max14,000 cu ft/s (396 m3/s) (1972)
 - min271 cu ft/s (8 m3/s) (1976)
A map of the Elk River and its watershed.
 
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Coordinates: 38°21′18″N 81°38′42″W / 38.35500°N 81.64500°W / 38.35500; -81.64500
Elk River
River
Elk River Charleston.jpg
Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia.
CountryUnited States
StateWest Virginia
CountiesPocahontas, Randolph, Webster, Braxton, Clay, Kanawha
Tributaries
 - leftBirch River
 - rightHolly River
SourceOld Field Fork [1]
 - locationElk Mountain, Pocahontas County, WV
 - elevation3,557 ft (1,084 m) [2]
 - coordinates38°18′24″N 80°06′18″W / 38.30667°N 80.10500°W / 38.30667; -80.10500
Secondary sourceBig Spring Fork [3]
 - locationPocahontas County, WV
 - elevation3,655 ft (1,114 m) [4]
 - coordinates38°22′32″N 80°00′34″W / 38.37556°N 80.00944°W / 38.37556; -80.00944
Source confluence
 - locationSlatyfork, WV
 - elevation2,667 ft (813 m) [5]
 - coordinates38°25′08″N 80°07′48″W / 38.41889°N 80.13000°W / 38.41889; -80.13000
MouthKanawha River [6]
 - locationCharleston, WV
 - elevation574 ft (175 m)
 - coordinates38°21′18″N 81°38′42″W / 38.35500°N 81.64500°W / 38.35500; -81.64500
Length172 mi (277 km) [7]
Dischargefor Queen Shoals, WV
 - average2,650 cu ft/s (75 m3/s) [8]
 - max14,000 cu ft/s (396 m3/s) (1972)
 - min271 cu ft/s (8 m3/s) (1976)
A map of the Elk River and its watershed.

The Elk River is a tributary of the Kanawha River, 172 miles (277 km) long,[7] in central West Virginia in the United States. Via the Kanawha and Ohio rivers, it is part of the watershed of the Mississippi River.

Course[edit]

The Elk is formed in the Allegheny Mountains in Pocahontas County by the confluence of two short streams, the Big Spring Fork and the Old Field Fork, which join near the community of Slatyfork. It flows above ground for several miles before it sinks into a network of caverns and flows underground for more than five miles. The old riverbed of solid rock, however, remains above ground in this section known as "The Dries." It follows a generally westward course across the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau, through Randolph, Webster, Braxton, Clay, and Kanawha Counties, past the towns of Webster Springs, Sutton, Gassaway, Clay, Clendenin, and Elkview before joining the Kanawha River at Charleston.

At Sutton, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concrete dam causes the Elk to form Sutton Lake.

The Elk's largest tributaries are the Holly River and the Birch River, both of which join it in Braxton County.

The upper portion of the river, above Sutton Lake, is a popular coldwater trout stream. Some reports of a 2013 Wake Forest University study of selenium contamination in Sutton Lake in North Carolina (allegedly due to coal ash from the Sutton power plant of Duke Energy). erroneously attributed this contamination to Sutton Lake in West Virginia.[9] Sutton Lake in North Carolina is on the Cape Fear River; whereas Sutton Lake in West Virginia is on the Elk River, an entirely different river drainage basin. [10] [11]

Below Sutton Lake, is a high-gradient warmwater fishery well known for its muskellunge, walleye and smallmouth bass fishing. The Elk River serves as the source of water for 1500 miles of pipeline that carry its water to customers in central and southwestern West Virginia.[12]

Variant names[edit]

According to the Geographic Names Information System, the Elk River has also been known historically as:

The Elk River near its mouth in Charleston in 2001

History[edit]

Chemical spill[edit]

In January 2014 a spill of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a foaming agent used as a wash component in the coal-preparation process, required West Virginia authorities to supply water to as many as 300,000 people in nine of the state's counties.[13] The effect of the Elk River chemical spill to the critically endangered diamond darter fish, known only to live in the Elk River, is still unknown.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Old Field Fork". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  2. ^ "USGS Elevation Query: Old Field Fork Source". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  3. ^ "Big Spring Fork". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  4. ^ "USGS Elevation Query: Big Spring Fork Source". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  5. ^ "USGS Elevation Query: Elk River Source Confluence". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  6. ^ "Elk River". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  7. ^ a b "Columbia Gazetteer of North America: Elk River". Columbia University Press. 2000. Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  8. ^ "USGS 03197000 ELK RIVER AT QUEEN SHOALS, WV". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  9. ^ Lemly, A.D., 2013, study for the Southern Environmental Law Center, pdf
  10. ^ Charlotte Observer, "Duke’s coal ash kills, deforms fish, study says", 12/03/13 [1].
  11. ^ Thinkprogress, 12/04/13[2].
  12. ^ CNN, "In parts of West Virginia, water is only for flushing": retrieved 10 January 2013
  13. ^ Washington Post "Chemical spill into W.Va. river spurs closures, run on bottled water" 10 January 2014
  14. ^ Stuart A. Welsh & Robert M. Wood (14 Jan 2008). "Crystallaria cincotta, a new species of darter (Teleostei: Percidae) from the Elk River of the Ohio River drainage, West Virginia". ZOOTAXA ISSN 1175-5334 (online edition) (Magnolia Press) (1680 (2008)): 62–68

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External links[edit]