By RICK STEELHAMMER, Charleston Gazette-Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — After more than half a century of ferrying visitors on scenic round-trip trips to the depths of two river gorges, aerial trams serving Hawks Nest and Pipestem State Parks Resort will soon be replaced.
West Virginia state park officials hope to have new and improved aerial trams running at both parks next year.
The Hawks Nest Aerial Tramway has been closed since June 6, when a routine morning inspection by state park staff revealed a safety issue that required substantial corrective action.
“Since then, we have transported 7,600 people to the marina to board the jet boat,” said Joe Baughman, park superintendent.
The shuttle involves a van trip from Hawks Nest Lodge to Ansted, about a mile east, followed by a four-mile descent to Hawks Nest Lake on Mill Creek Road.
The Hawks Nest Tramway, which opened in 1970, typically carries more than 45,000 visitors a year on steep 800ft descents from the lodge to a marina on Hawks Nest Lake at the foot of the New River Gorge . There, visitors can board a park concessionaire’s jetboat to travel to the base of the New River Gorge Bridge, rent kayaks or paddleboards, or set up at one of four rental sites. glamping from the park and returning to the rim of the canyon via a three-minute tram ride. travel.
The Pipestem Aerial Tramway, which began operating in 1972, takes visitors nearly two-thirds of a mile, descending from the rim of Bluestone Canyon and crossing the Bluestone River before arriving at Mountain Creek Lodge. The trip involves an elevation gain of 1,100 feet and six minutes of sightseeing time. The trolley offers the only visitor access to the restaurant and the 30 rooms of the Mountain Creek Lodge.
The Pipestem tram will open for the season, according to national park officials, and will continue to operate for at least part of the new tram’s construction activity. Tramway Sweets and Treats Ice Cream Shop and Canyon Rim Gift Shop will also be open at the Upper Tram Station.
“The Pipestem Tram is definitely a focal point of the park and a sought-after activity for visitors,” said state Department of Commerce spokesman Andy Malinosky. “That being said, we expect the Pipestem tram to reopen in 2023.
Baughman said he hopes the new Hawks Nest Tram will be running by this time next year. “For our visitors, the tram is synonymous with Hawks Nest,” he said.
Design specifications for new state park streetcars require their gondola-topped passenger cars to accommodate up to eight passengers, doubling current capacity, and include open freight cars to carry kayaks, bicycles and other gear in and out of the two river canyons.
The Hawks Nest tram was one of only two reversible trams built by the Hall Ski-Lift Co., according to the Chairlift Preservation Society. The other Hall Tram, built at Waterway Hills Golf Course in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, closed in 2015.
The Pipestem tram was one of four similar trams installed in North America by the Gerhard Mueller Co. of Zurich, Switzerland. The others, serving the ski resorts of Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec; Whistler, British Columbia; and Mount Whittier, New Hampshire, have all ceased operations.