An Evolution: Yesterday's Rails...Today's Trails
The great 1849 suspension bridge of Wheeling extended the National Road west, bringing people and goods to the city. At the northernmost navigable port on the Ohio River, overland routes, river traffic and railroads converged, attracting entrepreneurs and manufacturers of iron, steel, textiles, glass, tobacco and other goods.
The railroads provided access to markets for Wheeling products. At one time as many as seven railroads served the city, including the Baltimore & Ohio, the Wheeling & Lake Erie, the Pittsburgh Wheeling & Kentucky, the Hempfield, the Panhandle, the Ohio River & Western and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Today, no railroads roll through Wheeling, and the long-familiar train whistle of yesterday is silent.
In their place, the city of Wheeling has converted more than 13 miles of former railroad beds into an extraordinary trail experience.
The Ohio River Trail runs north-south starting at the city line in South Wheeling and reaches the Pike Island Dam where the trail continues into Brooke County. In Wheeling’s 8.5-mile distance, the trail follows the river, passing many of the city’s industrial sites and crossing through Wheeling Heritage Port. Along the way, stop to read the historic signs, take in the National Historic Landmark Wheeling Suspension Bridge, and view the river traffic particularly as barges pass through the locks at Pike Island.
The Wheeling Creek Trail runs east-west providing opportunities to cross the Hempfield Viaduct high above the creek and experience the Hempfield Tunnel. The trail begins in downtown connecting to the Ohio River Trail at Heritage Port and extends five miles to Elm Grove.
The Wheeling Heritage Trails are an important element adding to Wheeling’s vitality. The Wheeling National Heritage Area preserves and celebrates the city’s dramatic setting, resources and history, including its role as the birthplace of the state of West Virginia during the Civil War. A National Heritage Area is a part of our country’s landscape that has been recognized by the United States Congress for its unique contribution to the American experience.