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Closure Notice: As of March 2021, portions of the northern end of the trail south of Wellsburg are closed due to the construction of a new bridge across the Ohio River that will include a shared-use path for walkers and bicyclists. The trail will be subject to continuous closures during the project, which is slated for completion in late 2022; check with the trail manager for up-to-date information. The southern end of the trail remains open.
The Brooke Pioneer Trail rolls along the woodsy eastern bank of the Ohio River, a waterway that once carried early settlers’ flatboats to lands in the west. The northern section of the trail, closed for several years for construction of the Wellsburg Bridge spanning the river, is scheduled to re-open in late 2022. The trail provides access to the bridge’s shared-used path that will carry walkers and bicyclists westward into Ohio.
The paved trail runs for 6.7 miles between the southern city limits of historic Wellsburg and the Ohio County line at Short Creek, where it meets the Wheeling Heritage Trails. Both trails are paved and provide 18 miles of scenic walking or bicycling along the river.
Interpretive signs along the trail describe its origins as a southern spur of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis (PCC & StL) Railroad, which was commonly called the Panhandle Railroad. The corridor between Weirton and Benwood opened in 1878, carrying passengers until 1951 and freight until 1981. Crews pulled the track in 1987, and a decade passed before trail construction began.
The northern end of the trail begins at the southern limits of Wellsburg and the terminus of the 2.2-mile Wellsburg Yankee Trail that passes through downtown. Continuing south from Wellsburg, you’ll cross Buffalo Creek on a restored railroad trestle paralleling WV 2.
In about a mile, you’ll come to the Wellsburg Bridge, scheduled to open in fall 2022 (see closure notice below). The bridge’s shared-use path provides a unique opportunity for walkers and bicyclists, as there is no other shared-use path on an Ohio River bridge between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati—a distance of 322 miles.
The trail is wedged between WV 2 and the Ohio River for its entire length. The mostly wooded corridor obscures the view of both the road and the river, though occasional openings reveal vistas of the powerful river and the hilly western shore. The woods are home to deer, ground-hogs, and other critters.
History buffs will be interested to learn that human habitation along the river dates back thousands of years. Scientists excavating an earthen mound in the town of Beech Bottom, about 3.5 miles south of Wellsburg, found artifacts dating to 400 BC. The town was also home to a fort that guarded the frontier during the Revolutionary War.
Those looking for reminders of the area’s industrial past won’t be disappointed. The trail skirts the edge of a handful of manufacturing properties between Wellsburg and Windsor Heights. Among them is the former site of the Windsor Power Plant—a onetime electricity generator for the region—and its company town of 100 homes, all of which are gone today. On the opposite shore, the large cooling tower and smokestack of Ohio’s Cardinal Power Plant interrupt the views of the rolling wooded landscape.
The trail ends at a pedestrian bridge over Short Creek and seamlessly continues south as the Wheeling Heritage Trails.
In Wellsburg, park just south of the trestle off SR 2 south of town, beside a gas station. Limited parking is also available just off the trail in Beech Bottom (WV 2 & Carolina Ave). In Windsor Heights, park just south of the bridge off SR 2 at Stone Shannon Road. Use caution when crossing the highway to access the trail. In Short Creek, parking is available by Ironmen Park (west side of WV 2 at Short Creek Road/CR 2/2).
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