Greenbriar River, West Virginia
Cruise along the Greenbriar River Bike Trail and you ride the roadbed of steel rails that no longer exist. Building bike trails on railway beds creates an easy gradient for cyclists, with smooth climbs, easy descents.
The Greenbriar River Trail runs beside the river of the same name for a stretch of 77 miles (124 km) from the settlement of Cass to North Caldwell. One hundred years ago the towns along this railway line were active, the communities thriving, or even bustling fueled with enterprising immigrants from faraway countries and newly or almost-free slaves from the nearby Southern states. Proclamations and edicts such as the end of slavery in the U.S. may have been issued, but the reality of freedom would need decades for real effect. All along the river, people made a living harvesting local resources for those who owned land — cutting trees, mining coal and grinding corn on water mills. And the resources rolled on the river or the railways to markets in other places.
Imagine what an amazing network would exist if every decommissioned stretch of railway in North America was converted to a bike trail! We could bike safely across the continent, easy peasy!
Don’t forget to wear blaze orange or hot pink jackets or vests during hunting seasons in West Virginia. When I rode this trail a stretch of months ago, I could hear hunters taking pot shots in the woods. Did they know the bike trail exists?
Wikipedia states “the Greenbrier is the longest untamed (unblocked) river left in the Eastern U.S.” which is a sad thing to learn. Culverts, dams, spills, canals, diversions steal the vitality of the other long rivers in the Eastern U.S.