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Photo, Print, Drawing Partially reclaimed highwalls

About this Item


  • Partially reclaimed highwalls


  • Hufford, Mary, 1952- (Photographer)

Created / Published

  • November 23, 1997


  • -  Fall
  • -  Reclamation
  • -  Landform complex
  • -  Made land
  • -  November
  • -  Cabin Creek Plateau (W. Va.)
  • -  Photographs
  • -  Ethnography
  • -  West Virginia -- Kanawha County -- Cabin Creek


  • Photographs
  • Ethnography


  • -  Event: Tour of Reclamation Sites in White Oak and Surrounding Area.
  • -  "Stacy Edmunds conducted a tour of sites she'd been using in her field study for her master's thesis in ecology. As she went, she explained the concepts of reclamation at work for contour mining (used in the 1960s and 1970s) and for mountaintop removal. We began at the Little White Oak Creek site in Orgas, where the growth was in "mid-succession" (12-25 years old). This plan did not allow for trees, having been switched from "forest" to "wildlife habitat" as a post-mining use. Stacy distinguished between the landform complexes created in mountaintop removal and in contour mining.
  • -  Mountaintop removal leaves three complexes: 1) a highland or upland complex, comprising a mound site (see CO68-02) with an extensive field nearby covered with hard, coarse vegetation (for example, lespedeza species, which are not used as much now as they were, and which Randy [Sprouse] and others call "sawgrass" – "It'll cut your socks to ribbons," Randy explained. Lespedeza is native to the steppes of Asia and the Gobi desert (see CO67- 18). 2) a valley fill, always adjacent to the highland or upland fill, marked by "groin drainage" in what was formerly a cove. 3) a wetland drainage complex, comprising a "gathering" pond at the field at the top of the valley fill, and a "bottom" pond at the "toe". The top pond is clean, "ready for ducks," as the West Virginia Surface Mining and Reclamation Association publication "Greenlands" puts it. Ponds have drainage outlets running into unbroken ground. Water caught in the bottom pond is treated with ammonia and manganese.
  • -  Contour mining leaves two complexes: 1) a highwall elimination complex, comprising a long slope, a bench, and a field area. The "pre-law" highwalls tend to slump and fall, and are hazardous to wildlife. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) requires that highwalls be eliminated. This is done through backfilling (CO68-09 through C068-12). 2) wetland drainage complex (C068- 11)
  • -  Contrasting the two forms of mining, Stacy pointed out that in mountaintop removal the undisturbed ground surrounds the perimeter of the actual mine site, and that fragments of forest run adjacent to the mine site along the valley fills. In contour mining the undisturbed ground is above and below the mine site. This location of undisturbed ground affects the ratio of native to exotic species coming in, since seed dispersal is aided by gravity. Natives like poplar, red oak, and white oak will begin at the top and creep down. Stacy observed that she saw the highest number of native species below the toe. Seedlings planted in reclamation include nitrogen fixing species like black alder, autumn olive, and black locust. She pointed out lots of volunteer sycamore seedlings near a drainage area. The upshot is a very broken up area, with young forests coming up on old terraces, vegetation sprouting from pushfill over the sides, broken rock tucked into grassy slopes, big terraces created with 1990s technology. Meanwhile, people recreate on the hybrid patchwork of land, inscribing slopes with off-road vehicle trails. "They come back up in here," said Randy, "And just shoot over the edge."


  • 35 mm Color Slide

Call Number/Physical Location

  • AFC 1999/008: CRF-MH-C067-08

Source Collection

  • Coal River Folklife Collection (AFC 1999/008)


  • American Folklife Center

Digital Id

Online Format

  • image

IIIF Presentation Manifest

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Credit line

Coal River Folklife Project collection (AFC 1999/008), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Hufford, Mary. Partially Reclaimed Highwalls. Kanawha County Cabin Creek West Virginia, 1997. Photograph.

APA citation style:

Hufford, M. (1997) Partially Reclaimed Highwalls. Kanawha County Cabin Creek West Virginia, 1997. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Hufford, Mary. Partially Reclaimed Highwalls. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.