TORNADO, W.Va. — More than 600 paddlers in more than 400 boats are expected for the annual Tour de Coal float trip on the Coal River Saturday in Kanawha Coal. The event grows by leaps and bounds each year.
The trip was originally designed to help raise awareness of the often unseen beauty of the Coal River. However, it soon became an infectious conservation effort for what was at one time considered a lost waterway.
“We decided we wanted to get people in the river to see how pretty it was, and in some cases how bad it was,” said Bill Curry of the Coal River Group. “Now we’ve got people when they get in the water, they take a trash bag with them and pick up trash on the river bank.”
The Coal River Group is a non-profit organization which holds as its mission to restore and maintain the three forks of the Coal River water shed. The Little Coal, Big Coal, and Coal River encompass 88-miles of stream in Boone and Kanawha counties. The organization has been instrumental in helping attract grants to improve sewage treatment and to remove pollutants and trash from the river. Saturday’s float aimed at celebrating the success.
The success is reflected in a new non-profit canoe rental business run by the organization.
“All the money we make in the paddle business will go right back into restoring the river,” Curry said. “We’re really excited. The business has been wonderful.”
Saturday’s float trip begins with registration at 7 a.m. at Meadowood Park in Tornado. Curry encourages participants to drop off their canoes or kayaks at the park, then drive back to St. Albans and catch the shuttle back to Tornado to begin the day. The average paddler will make the trip in about four hours.
”It’s a twelve mile flat water float that anybody can do,” said Curry. “You go over Lower Falls, but it’s very, very gentle. We’ve got 70 volunteers out there to make sure everybody gets through it safe and has a good time and gets to the end.”