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Richwood, West Virginia
RichwoodWV skyline.JPG
"The Ramp Capital of the World,"
"The Gateway to the Monongahela National Forest"
The City Merry on the Banks of the Cherry
Location of Richwood in Nicholas County, West Virginia.
Location of Richwood in Nicholas County, West Virginia.
Coordinates: 38°13′25″N 80°32′12″W / 38.22361°N 80.53667°W / 38.22361; -80.53667Coordinates: 38°13′25″N 80°32′12″W / 38.22361°N 80.53667°W / 38.22361; -80.53667
Country United States
State West Virginia
County Nicholas
 • Total 1.67 sq mi (4.32 km2)
 • Land 1.61 sq mi (4.17 km2)
 • Water 0.06 sq mi (0.15 km2)  3.59%
2,205 ft (672 m)
 • Total 2,051
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,152.17/sq mi (444.95/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 304, 681
FIPS code 54-68116
GNIS feature ID 1555475

Richwood is a city in Nicholas County, West Virginia, United States. In 2010, the census showed Richwood with a population of 2,051. During the 19th and early 20th century Richwood was a booming coal and lumber town. Richwood has a very rich history, including the formation of the Cherry River Navy civic organization to draw attention to issues important to the community. Richwood has also become known statewide as the "Ramp Capital of the World". Each year, in April, the city hosts a large festival that draws visitors from around the country.


The area surrounding the forks of the Cherry River has been populated since the late 18th century CE.

During the 19th century, the area was a sparsely settled semi-wilderness of homesteads and subsistence farms. This changed in 1898 when a railroad was extended into the area, then known as Cherry Tree Bottoms. In 1901, the town was incorporated with its present name, a nod to the abundant hardwood forests in the area. Soon the area possessed a large sawmill and the world's largest clothespin factory. Coal mine closures, however, crippled Richwood's economy in the 1970s and 1980s.

The town was once home to several large businesses and industries. In addition to the sawmill and the clothespin factory, there were other factories that produced wood-based products such as axe-handles and paper. Coal also came into the industry picture during Richwood's boom-era during pre-Depression years. During this time the city's population neared 10,000 citizens. Banking was also a white collar industry that succeeded in the city with the large companies investing into the city's financial corporations. Once the large factories closed or relocated, many of the people followed. The final hit was when the coal industry took a downward turn and most of the local coal mines ceased operation. This was combined with a deep mining disaster when one of the local mines collapsed.

The city periodically floods. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved an impact studies in order to determine the propriety of the construction of a dam on the South Fork of the Cherry River in order to limit future flooding. The proposed name for the possible lake is Eagle Lake. Depending on the exact location of the dam, the reservoir could become the largest lake in the state of West Virginia, surpassing nearby Summersville Lake.

Richwood now seeks to be reborn as both an artisan community and a technology center. The Downtown Richwood Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

Richwood is the headquarters of the Cherry River Navy community organization. It was founded by John Teets, A.B. Campbell, and Lee Reese to promote the construction of a missing link in West Virginia Route 39 between Richwood and Marlinton.

In June 2016, there was a historic severe flood in West Virginia that impacted Richwood.


Richwood is situated on both sides of a valley located in the Appalachian Mountains.

Richwood is located at 38°13′25″N 80°32′12″W / 38.22361°N 80.53667°W / 38.22361; -80.53667 (38.223637, -80.536676). The Cherry River is formed at Richwood by the confluence of its north and south forks. Some of the city is relatively flat bottom land located along the river valley while neighborhoods are located on rather steep terrain, some of which approaches the angle of repose.

At an elevation of approximately 2,200 feet above sea level, a unique setting is created by the Cherry River in which class 3 whitewater rapids are usually created during spring run off through a town of about 2,000 residents. In plain view from some of the city's public streets, this may be the only place in eastern North America where three categories of "twos" (population, elevation, and whitewater difficulty) are met or eclipsed. (Western US example-The Sacramento River at Dunsmuir, CA)

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.67 square miles (4.33 km2), of which, 1.61 square miles (4.17 km2) is land and 0.06 square miles (0.16 km2) is water.


The climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year-round. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Richwood has a marine west coast climate, abbreviated "Cfb" on climate maps.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 3,061
1920 4,331 41.5%
1930 5,720 32.1%
1940 5,051 −11.7%
1950 5,321 5.3%
1960 4,110 −22.8%
1970 3,717 −9.6%
1980 3,568 −4.0%
1990 2,808 −21.3%
2000 2,477 −11.8%
2010 2,051 −17.2%
2019 (est.) 1,855 −9.6%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 2,051 people, 889 households, and 543 families living in the city. The population density was 1,273.9 inhabitants per square mile (491.9/km2). There were 1,163 housing units at an average density of 722.4 per square mile (278.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.1% White, 0.2% African American, 0.4% Native American, and 2.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 0.7% of the population.

There were 889 households, of which 24.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.0% were married couples living together, 15.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.9% were non-families. 35.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.78.

The median age in the city was 49 years. 18.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 18.7% were from 25 to 44; 29.9% were from 45 to 64; and 24.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.2% male and 52.8% female.

Local places of interest

The Sterling Spencer Memorial Sculpture Garden replaced a dilapidated vacant hotel that had partially collapsed. The park is named in honor of a respected wood sculptor from Richwood.

Richwood has a mountain setting with close proximity to the Gauley Ranger District the Monongehela National Forest and access to a great number of recreational areas. Three tributaries of the Gauley River (Williams River, Cranberry River, and Cherry River) all flow wild within this portion of the forest. A scenic highway and visitors center also lie at the intersection of WV 39 and WV 150, which is close to the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area and the Cranberry Wilderness. The Cranberry Glades Botanical Area is the southernmost Canadian bog in the world. Summit Lake offers the only flat water recreation in the immediate area. Richwood is also home to Cherry Hill Country Club, a beautiful nine-hole golf course located on top of Hinkle Mountain.


Richwood's primary road is a two lane route that is the commingling West Virginia Route 39 and West Virginia Route 55. These highways provide access to U.S. Route 19 to the west and U.S. Route 219 to the east. The original construction of the road portion from Marlinton to Richwood over a highly mountainous section of the Monongahela National Forest was instigated by the so-called "Cherry River Navy", thus reducing what was a 3-hour drive on indirect alternate routes to a current 45-minute drive. It is one of the most scenic and relatively remote drives in the eastern US, featuring a number of US National Forest recreation areas with easy access of the main road.

In the early years of the town, the railroad was a popular form of transporting wood, coal, and passengers in and out of Richwood on a daily basis. As time wore on, however, rail traffic gradually, but steadily, decreased. By the early 1980s, trains had been completely replaced by road transportation in the area. The tracks were removed by the end of the decade and the old railroad grade was transformed into a gravel rail-trail for hiking and bicycling.


Richwood's Main Street Central Business District went from boom to bust during the 20th century, but has subsequently seen the return of specialty shops and an effort to beautify the cityscape

While Richwood was the economic center for Nicholas County for most of the 20th century, the county seat of Summersville has come to be the primary retail and business center during the past 25 years. This is mostly due to the improvement of U.S. Route 19 to a four-lane highway and the development of business along the corridor. Richwood, however, is still by default the political and economic center of eastern Nicholas County, as it is the only incorporated city in the immediate area. The city has a small shopping plaza which houses Rite Aid and Dollar General.

There have been efforts to attract visitors to the area for the natural environment of the adjacent Monongahela National Forest. The mayor welcomed attendees of the 2005 Rainbow Gathering that was held in the forest and took the opportunity to encourage craftspeople to buy property and set up businesses there.

Richwood operates the small Richwood Municipal Airport, which is located in the nearby unincorporated community of New Hope.


Three schools, operated by the Nicholas County Board of Education, serve Richwood students: Cherry River Elementary, Richwood Middle School, and Richwood High School. In 2005, the girls' high school softball team won the school its first team state championship in any sport.

Due to flooding on June 23, 2016, both Richwood High School and Richwood Middle School have been temporarily relocated. As of June 2017, there is an ongoing debate regarding the replacement or consolidation of these schools.

Notable people

  • Michael Barrett, basketball player and winner of the 1968 Olympic gold medal
  • Peter Brunette, film critic and historian
  • Jim Comstock, editor of The West Virginia Hillbilly and Richwood News Leader
  • Nancy Douglas, Confederate spy
  • Marian McQuade, founder of National Grandparents Day
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