As a photographer in the Cheat Lake area of Morgantown, W.Va., I’m always thinking about where it is that the day’s creative exercise-excursion should be.

I had been to Cheat Lake Park a couple of times before, and had hiked both ways (left and right when coming down the hill from the parking lot, which is off Morgans Run Road). There are 4.5 miles of trails, and they are perfect for biking, running and walking. I’ll look forward to the former when I purchase a bike.

It was a cool, overcast June day on my third visit, and I brought my Nikon 810 to do some landscape and nature photography. When I run, I take my iPhone. When I hike or walk, usually I take both.

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Along a body of water that is the Cheat River, Cheat Lake and Lake Lynn (the latter in Pennsylvania) depending on your GPS, a history that includes George Washington’s surveying efforts in 1784, and a nature viewing area at the southern end of the trail  make trekking the path worthwhile.

One of the markers near the park’s playground tells of the railroad, that:

in 1912, the Cheat Haven and Bruceton Railroad was constructed along the Cheat River as a short connector line between the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Cheat Haven, Pennsylvania and the Kendall Lumber Company operations near Ice’s Ferry, West Virginia. Rubble fill was used to construct elevated causeways to cross Rubles Run Bay, Morgan Run Bay, and Manning Run. This standard gauge railroad used Shays and Heisler locomotives to transport lumber from nearby logging operations to the saw mills. In 1919, this railroad line was extended up the Cheat River to transport coal brought over the river by an aerial cable car from the Canyon Coal and Coke Company. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad later took over the Cheat Haven and Bruceton Railroad as part of its system. Today, the Cheat Lake Trail follows the former right-of-way of these rail lines.

There is also a history of milling along the river, and the park has a millstone sanctuary that is interesting to check out.

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The correlating marker tells us that:

In 1773, Samuel Ruble constructed the first grist mill in Cheat Neck. By the mid-19th century, numerous river mills were situated along the Cheat River and used primarily for the production of flour and lumber. Both tub mills and overshot mills, which used the river’s flow to turn water wheels, were once located in the Cheat Neck area.

Millstones were used in pairs and included a turning runner stone situated above a stationary base stone. In this region, millstones were generally constructed of local Pottsville conglomerate and used to grind grain or pulpwood. The deep grooves in some of the millstones provided a cutting edge that channeled flour or pulp to the outside of the millstone for collection. It is thought the millstones were originally from nearby West Virginia quarries and designed to grind pulp into newsprint at mills throughout the region. Defects in the millstones resulted in their use as bank stabilization material and fill for the railroad prior to rising water levels associated with the construction of the Lake Lynn Hydroelectric Station in 1926.

As I was photographing a wildflower against the backdrop of one of the coves, and later a ripple effect through some trees, it was apparent that God’s design of my surroundings had reached a tranquil plateau. I’m sure that the fisherman and the couple taking a walk — other witnesses to the peacefulness of the time and place — probably would agree.

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Photos and story by Mark A. Shephard

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