Morgantown is known as the home of West Virginia University, the inspiration for a Joni Mitchell song and the birthplace of Don Knotts. But it’s also known for its extensive rail-trail system along the Monongahela River—one of a few American rivers that flows north—and its tributaries.
The Deckers Creek Trail is the gem of the system. Beginning at the confluence of the Monongahela River and Deckers Creek in downtown Morgantown, the trail is one of the main attractions of Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park. Located adjacent to a restored railway station, the park is the nexus of the trail system and a vibrant hub of local activity, with a steady stream of walkers, runners, skaters and cyclists. The Caperton Trail meets the Deckers Creek Trail in the park, situated roughly at the midpoint of its course through Morgantown and Star City.
From the park, the Deckers Creek Trail stretches 19 miles to the southeast along a former rail corridor, paralleling Deckers Creek and State Route 7 to slightly west of the small town of Reedsville in Preston County. The first 2.5 miles of the trail are paved, passing through the urban landscape of Morgantown. The trail provides easy access to Marilla Park, a city park with a playground, swimming pool and tennis courts, as well as neighboring restaurants and food stores. After passing under Interstate 68, the surface changes to crushed stone.
The trail gains 1,000 feet as it climbs out of the Monongahela River valley and enters a rural landscape distinguished by hemlock, rhododendron and a smattering of residences. But the most memorable feature of the surrounding landscape is Deckers Creek itself. Because of the steady grade, the trail passes a series of dramatic rapids and waterfalls, while the creek noisily rushes headlong toward the Monongahela. Highly-experienced kayakers paddle Deckers Creek, which has some Class VI rapids, and rock climbing is also popular in the region.
The trail provides a close-up view of Greer Limestone, an active quarry business. Near the communities of Masontown and Bretz, the trail also passes an abandoned row of coke ovens, remnants from a large coal-mining industry. The Bretz Coke Ovens are listed as a National Historic Landmark.
As the trail approaches its endpoint near Reedsville, the grade flattens and the woods give way to wetland areas that feature cattails and red-winged blackbirds. Less than 1 mile away on State Route 92 is the Arthurdale Heritage District and Museum. The entire community of Arthurdale is on the National Register of Historic Places, recognized as the first of several planned communities created under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program.
Those not accustomed to hard pedaling can start on the Reedsville end and enjoy a pleasant ride downhill into Morgantown.
Parking for the Deckers Creek Trail is available in Morgantown at Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park, Whitemore Park and Marilla Park. Masontown and Reedsville also have primitive trailheads with parking.