Two adventurers to hike, bike, paddle length of Elk River

Matt Kearns and Adam Swisher
Matt Kearns and Adam Swisher

In what could be the first modern-day traverse of the Elk River, two outdoorsmen will set out on foot from the Southern Monongahela National Forest and follow the river – paddling the last 100 miles along the Elk River Trail – to the mouth of the river in Charleston. West Virginia native Matt Kearns and teammate Adam Swisher have planned “Elkspedition” to highlight the connections between the Elk’s headwaters in proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument and the waters we all enjoy and depend on.

Starting May 17, Kearns and Swisher will backpack through the proposed national monument to the Elk River headwaters. Hiking down Laurel Run to Slatyfork, they will travel from there on bikes past the Elk River Dries, Bergoo, and Webster Springs on to Centralia. They will paddle the length of Sutton Lake, portage Sutton Dam, and then continue 100 miles to the confluence with the Kanawha River in Charleston. The duo will finish their Elkspedition sojourn Memorial Day, stopping at Coonskin Park for a free picnic open to the public and hosted by West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

“The Monongahela National Forest is the headwaters of West Virginia,” Kearns said. “We need to protect the headwaters in our public lands for world-class recreation and clean drinking water.”

The proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument would permanently conserve the headwaters of six rivers in the Southern Monongahela National Forest. National monuments can be designated by Congress or the President. “The monument would guarantee our rivers get a clean start as they move downstream to be enjoyed by paddlers, anglers, and swimmers; and as drinking water supplies,” Kearns said.

Angie Rosser, executive director of WV Rivers Coalition, says more than 60 nonprofit organizations, 200 businesses, and 1,000 West Virginians have asked President Obama to designate the monument. “Increasingly we’re seeing Congress move to industrialize or sell off our national forest recreation lands,” she said. “The Birthplace of Rivers National Monument would ensure that particular area is always open to hunting, fishing, paddling, and other uses.”

Kearns and Swisher will upload photos, video, and stories throughout their journey. Follow them online at



more recommended stories