TL;DR (A summary):
The route climbing and bouldering along the section of Meadow River and Glade Creek, often called “the Southside,” is owned and managed by three entities: The Heartwood Forest Land Group (TFG), Nuttall LLC (Nuttalls), and Fayette County.
Climbers have never had explicit permission to climb on either TFG or Nuttall land. After ATV accidents along the Meadow River rail grade near the Southside in the early summer of 2021, and with continued trespassing by climbers, the landowners have formally asked that climbers and other recreationists cease further use of this land.
NRAC is actively communicating with landowners to gain formalized access to the climbing on both sides of the Meadow, stretching from Nallen to US Route 19, including the Southside climbing areas. NRAC asks climbers to NOT climb any routes or boulders in this area. We also ask that climbers avoid the use of the rail grade from Nallen to Glade Creek. While this is public land managed by Fayette County, it is surrounded by private property, does not access any currently open cliffs or boulders, and motorized vehicles are prohibited.
The New River Gorge is lined with cliffs and littered with boulders, however it is not the only river corridor with these gifts. This region includes two other rivers: the Gauley River and the Meadow River.
While established climbing along the Gauley is sporadic below the Summersville Dam, the Meadow River holds several large, well-established crags and boulder clusters. The route climbing guide book for the region documents much of the established roped climbing, including the highly popular Lower Meadow as well as the currently closed Southside areas, while the bouldering guide showcases the high concentration Meadow Top boulders. Unfortunately, while much of the climbing in the New River Gorge is on public land, the tracts along the Meadow River are almost entirely privately owned. Climbers have historically been a small, low-impact user group to the area, but this is no longer the case and the climbing community has to respectfully navigate private land owners and their wishes.
Another growing outdoor recreation user group is motorized off-roaders. The Meadow River rail grade through the Southside gained popularity for riders over the last few years as it provided miles of scenic, uninterrupted, and previously unregulated access to the Meadow and Gauley rivers. In the early summer of 2021, there were multiple off-road motorized vehicle accidents, including fatalities. This prompted a meeting of the primary land owners through this area of rail grade. To avoid further trespassing and potential accidents with associated liability, the land owners formally closed their land to all user groups. To be clear, climbers never had permission to use most of the Southside and have always been trespassing. Now that climbing access to the Southside has closed, NRAC and the Access Fund are pursuing formal agreements to allow future use.
There are several discrete sections of river and creek that have different land owners and regulations. Understanding the geography and who owns what area is key to understanding the difficulties in obtaining uninterrupted access along the Southside.
The geography is naturally divided into a few areas. The previously driveable (by most vehicles) Meadow River rail grade, stretches from Nallen to Hedricks Creek (not to be confused with Hendricks Creek). This is divided by Glade Creek and the Glade Creek rail grade that perpendicularly meets the Meadow River rail grade, and is approximately halfway between Nallen and Hedricks Creek. The land between Nallen and Glade Creek includes the Rehab Crag, Candy Cluster Boulders, Monkey Boulders, 42 Boulders and more. The Glade Creek Rail grade contains the Litz Boulders (on the South side of Glade Creek) and Mud Hueco Crag (on the North side of Glade Creek). The Glade Creek rail grade starts at an old railroad bridge with a yellow gate off of Propps Ridge Road; the rail grade is NOT the same as Propps Ridge Road. The Meadow River rail grade from Glade Creek to Hedricks Creek holds the bulk of the established routes including Area 51 Crag and the Other Place Crag. It continues past this concentration of routes and continues beneath the US-19 bridge, before reaching Hedricks Creek.
Downstream of where Hedricks Creek joins the Meadow River, the Meadow rail grade continues but has limited access to motorized vehicles. There are a few clusters of established boulders in the river, but this stretch is better known for the lightly trafficked Orange Wall Crag. This stretch along the Meadow River downstream of Hedrick’s passes Dogwood Creek that includes a large bouldering roof.
On the other side of the Meadow River, opposite the rail grade, there is the strip of land along WV Route 41 from Nallen to Anglin Creek, where the highway turns away from paralleling the Meadow River. This stretch holds several bouldering clusters along both sides of the highway including the Wingman Boulders and Golden Globe Boulders. A separate swathe of land continues from Anglins Creek to US Route 19. Past US Route 19 is where the Lower Meadow routes and boulders and Meadow Top boulders are found.
The Land Owners/Managers:
The three main land owners/managers in the Meadow River Gorge are The Heartwood Forest Land Group (or “TFG”), Nuttall LLC (or “the Nuttalls”), and Fayette County.
TFG owns the majority of the land along the Meadow Rail Grade from Nallen to Glade Creek. They own the land along the Glade Creek rail grade and on the south side of the rail grade (opposite side from the creek itself). However, they only own the road itself from Propps Ridge until about halfway before it reaches the Meadow River rail grade. TFG also owns the entire stretch of land along WV Route 41, on the other side of the Meadow River from the rail grade/Southside. They own a large section from Anglins Creek to US Route 19. To recap, TFG’s land holdings encompass the majority of the established bouldering at Southside, Rehab crag, and all of the bouldering along WV Route 41.
The Nuttalls own the large stretch of land from Glade Creek downstream through Hedricks Creek until just after Dogwood Creek. They own the bottom half of the rail grade itself between Propps Ridge Road and the Meadow River rail grade. To recap, Nuttall’s land holdings encompass the majority of the established route climbing at the Southside as well as scattered established bouldering.
The final entity is Fayette County. They own the physical rail grade from Nallen to Glade Creek, but other than that corridor they do not own the land on either side.
Current Access Situation:
Neither TFG nor the Nuttalls are currently allowing climbing on their land along the Meadow River. You will be trespassing if you are on any part of either of these two entities' properties. Fayette County allows for NON-motorized vehicle use of the rail grade from Nallen to Glade creek.
NRAC is currently in discussion with TFG regarding a potential lease of their land that contains climbing along both sides of the Meadow River and along Glade Creek. This conversation has been hindered by people who continue to trespass. During the winter of 2021-2022 unknown persons have cut locks and spray painted warnings and profanity on the gate where Propps Ridge Road and the Glade Creek rail grade meet. This is unlikely to be climbers, however there is no proof either way.
NRAC is working with the Access Fund in attempts to engage the Nuttalls in similar talks about leasing land for climbing. We hope for a mutually beneficial arrangement that allows for climbing access while eliminating unauthorized motorized vehicle use of Nuttall land. We have provided information about our goals for a lease to the Nuttalls but have unfortunately had little success in establishing ongoing communication with them.
Currently, Fayette County has made little effort to enforce NON-motorized only vehicle use of the section of rail grade from Nallen to Glade creek (remember, the land on either side of the rail grade in this section is owned by TFG).
What You Can Do:
Please do NOT climb at Southside until we have been given explicit permission to do so. Any further trespassing at this time will jeopardize future access and make open communication with land owners more difficult. While the Meadow River rail grade from Nallen to Glade Creek is owned by Fayette County and open to public use, NRAC is asking you to limit use of this: there is currently no good parking, this stretch of rail grade dead-ends into private property, and nearby crags therefore are off-limits.
NRAC representatives are actively communicating with land owners/managers. These are sensitive conversations as the current landowners do not currently want any recreational activity on their property. You can support NRAC’s efforts in regaining access to this area through monetary donations. Donations provide us with negotiating power and financial support for potential future leases with land owners and related projects.