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Coal River Group launches kayak, canoe rental

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As spring begins, thoughts turn to outdoor recreation such as paddling along the river.

No boat? No problem.

Coal River Kayak and Canoe Rental will offer a limited number of boats beginning April 1 with the business expected to be in full swing by the time the weather is warmer in May, said Bill Currey, chairman and co-founder of the Coal River Group.

The nonprofit Coal River Group acquired the boat rental business a couple of months ago from Bill Simmons, who started it in 2010. Currey said Simmons decided to retire and the group thought renting boats would be a plus to encouraging folks to enjoy the river.

The Coal River Group was formed as a nonprofit organization in 2004 by Bill Currey and the late Bill Queen. The pair launched the effort to organize a community-based watershed group after floating the entire 88 miles of the Big, Little and Coal rivers.

Volunteers work hard to clean up the rivers, preserve the history of the area, and promote tourism.  

"Our group is successful," Currey said. "We have a number of fundraising events each year. We had enough excess funds to buy the existing (boat rental) business."

The group leases land from the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation in Meadowood Park in Tornado where the Coal River Group Science and Education Center is located.

"We have 22 boats, primarily sit-on-top kayaks known as ocean kayaks," Currey said. "These are very stable and ideal for beginning paddlers.  

A "delivery service" will include the choice of various paddling adventures.

"We'll take people seven miles up shore to an Alum Creek location and they will paddle to Meadowood Park in Tornado to the Coal River Group Science and Education Center," he said.

A second trip would begin at the park and continue downstream to Lower Falls for six miles where paddlers could be picked up and brought back to the center. A 12-mile trip goes from Meadowood Park and follows the river to Gateway Shopping Center in St. Albans where paddlers would be picked up.

Rates are $35 a day for a single or $65 for a tandem kayak that could accommodate two adults and a child.  

"As part of our business venture we are securing college students who have to do internships," he said. "We will have two to four interns help us operate the business."

These would be students majoring in things like parks and recreation or natural resources, he said.

The park has an eight-acre lake that was recently restored and that could be used to teach beginners to paddle, he said. Beginning in June, boats are to be rented for $10 an hour for those who want to learn to paddle on the lake.

More experienced boaters can simply rent a kayak or canoe and choose their own routes.

Currey recommends making reservations to ensure a boat rental.

Meanwhile, plans are in the works for the ninth annual Tour de Coal family paddle event. Last year's event attracted about 400 boats and 600 paddlers. This year's event is set for June 22. A $20 donation includes a T-shirt. The event begins 9 a.m. and the 12-mile trip lasts four to five hours as paddlers go from Tornado to St. Albans. Rent a boat or bring your own. Call for reservations.

For more information, go to,, or call 304-722-3055.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.


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