Save the Sharp Farm of Pocahontas County
History and heritage in Slatyfork, West Virginia.
The Author's Blog

A Walk With the Elk

Monday September 18, 2006
By David Fleming
Elk River—the most splendid and uncorrupted flowing pools you'll ever see.
The portion of the upper Elk River that I walked.  From its origin at the junction of Old Field Fork and Big Spring Fork to the end of the four-track railyard.  About 1½ miles. USGS 1997.
The portion of the upper Elk River that I walked. From its origin at the junction of Old Field Fork and Big Spring Fork to the end of the four-track railyard. About 1½ miles. USGS 1997.

One midday about a month ago in August, I decided to spend a day walking along the Elk River where it begins just west of the Sharp Farm, behind Beckwith Lumber Company.

I'd heard many tell of the beauty and serenity of this area, but I had never walked this section for myself. So I grabbed the camera and hit the road over the hill to Slatyfork. I think the picture at top says it all.

Fishers and Hikers are warmly greeted.

The USGS aerial photo at right covers the area I walked and photographed that day. The Elk River and old railroad flow and turn together, river left and rail right.

Weary Track and Trail

Not far into the walk, the effects of time, water, and weather are clearly evident. In places, the rail ties are underwashed and intrude shadowy upon the worn footpath of fishers, hikers, and wildlife.

Railyard Booth at South End

Most of the rail along this section of river spans four tracks wide. Beginning at the south railyard booth, the one track forks into two, into three, into four, and runs as such for about a mile until all merges back together at a north railyard booth.

The Elk leads the way alongside the rail's west edge, sometimes veering away behind growth and trees only to come twisting back for a kiss-and-run.

There isn't much water flowing in the Elk this day. In places, it looks less like a river and more like fields of stones interspersed with thick tufts of grass and growth.

Elk River—Grassy Stones and Water

Yet in other places, the Elk reveals His majestic and cool-flowing pools.

The Elk River—Ancient, Remote, Uncorrupted

I found my way down to an especially alluring spot of the river and took a seat. I looked around as I heard and saw birds fly, deer scamper, and small fish leap and breach for insects. Even so, I felt alone, save for the strange intrusion in my mind that a T-Rex was imminently going to round the riverbed corner heading full-charge my way after its prey. Not me mind you, probably something bigger I just hadn't seen yet. Anyways, I was pretty sure about the T-Rex. It just seemed that remote and old here. Quite reasonable to expect dinosaurs.

After a few minutes had passed, the dinosaurs had apparently moved on. And then I began to feel genuinely calm. The sound of the water became tangible to my ears, and I let it in. How so unique and rare it is here. I let it in.

Below the water, to the bottom was so clear. The reflection upon the Elk's surface was as though a spider unseen to man had weaved a web of sky across its top, whose silken strands obeyed the will of the breeze.

In my full periphery of vision, left-to-right the Elk River saturated my senses. And I tried to remember it all, to etch it in my brain, as it was that day. As it now is. As it has been for so long. As it might never be again.

I stepped down and into the edge, cupped my hands together and stole some clear Elk River. I pressed my face into my hands, and the water soothed and cooled my weary brow. And I just know, those many who have spoken of the beauty and serenity which is found here must've done the same.

My feet will never dry.

Four Tracks Wide (leftmost rails pulled)
River and Rails
Twiny Timeless Tracks
Elk River of Stone
A Little Friend of the Elk
Can you spot the white-tailed doe?
An Old Box Car Abandoned
Railyard Booth at North End
The end of my walk, looking back South.
Time to head back to the house.