CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Coal River Group will host its ninth annual fundraising event, the Tour De Coal, June 21-23 at Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission's Meadowood Park in Tornado.
The 11-mile float trip from Tornado to Saint Albans draws boating and outdoor enthusiasts from all across the state and country. This year's event, titled "Rock, Paddle and Roll," coincides with West Virginia Day as the state celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Proceeds from the event will go towards the effort to revitalize the Coal River. The CGR, a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation, uses resources generated from the Tour De Coal and its other events to promote and facilitate liter and sewage clean-ups along the river, educate citizens and students and to raise awareness for the cause. The group, which has more than 600 registered volunteers, is one of about 30 watershed preservation groups operating in the state.
The northwestern-flowing Coal River, a tributary of the Kanawha River, is more than 100 miles long and is home to 586 named streams. The river is made up of three main bodies of water — the Coal River Watershed, and the Big and Little Coal Rivers. Originally named Walhondecepe by Delare Indians, it was renamed after 18th century explorer Peter John Salling discovered coal deposits along its banks.
Bill Curry, chairman and co-founder of the CRG, said last year's fundraiser, the largest in the event's history so far, raised more than $10,000 for the group's effort, attracting more than 600 paddlers in 400 boats. This year, the group hopes to double that figure.
When the event began almost a decade ago, its inaugural trip had only 40 participants. With each subsequent year, Curry said the event has continued to grow and has become one of the largest paddling events in the area. Participants in this year's event will be traveling from all across the country, from as far as west as California and as far south as Mississippi.
Curry said he has commitments from several high school reunion groups and former West Virginia residents who are using the trip as a reason to visit family and friends.
"We want people to come back to West Virginia, and this is a great thing for them to come back to," he said.
This year marks the first time the event has been expanded to a weekend-long celebration. To participate, the group will ask paddlers for a $20 donation and to sign a safety waiver. Boaters who donate will receive a complimentary T-shirt.