Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Breaks Interstate Park

When I was a child, my father told me about "the breaks of the Big Sandy," a spot he had traveled to as a young man. He never took me, and I never got around to going for myself. That changed a couple of months ago when, traveling through western Virginia, my wife suggested we take a side trip. I'm all about side trips.

It's called the breaks because the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River "breaks" through Pine Mountain as it flows north to the Ohio River.

The gorge it carved is 1,000 feet deep and there are sheer cliffs at its sides. There is a roadway on one side of the river and a railroad track on the other.

Where there's no room for either, tunnels have been cut through the mountains.

It's a stark, beautiful land.

While we watched, a train crawled from a tunnel far below us.

Two CSX diesel locomotives pulled a string of loaded coal cars at a snail's pace. They were heading upstream, and undoubtedly were climbing a grade that was steeper than it looked from our post. If you can see them, there are gated chutes along the bottoms of the coal cars through which the coal will be dumped. These cars are of an older design than the ones (shown here) designed to be dumped from the top.

At the end of the train were two more diesel locomotives, pushers to help the train climb the grade.

Breaks Interstate Park is operated by a joint commission between the states of Kentucky and Virginia. It's located just south of Elkhorn City, Kentucky. It's operated as a resort park with lodging, food service, camping, recreation, and a gift shop. We bought a miner's helmet with an attached lamp for our granddaughter. (Shhh! It's a surprise.)

There's a swimming pool for the kids and a small lake.

Right now should be a good time to visit. I'll bet the colors are really good.


  1. That is a great part of the country and some great kayaking on both the Russell Fork and the Big Sandy.

  2. Off the beaten track is always so much better than the road everybody takes.

    Wonderful scenery.