Bowden has seen some changes over the years, but what's been drawing generations of visitors has remained the same. The Shavers Fork River, natural setting, food and activities are perfect for those looking to escape their hectic daily lives and unwind. As the green begins to return to the trees, the spring and summer tourists are setting up their campsites along the stretch of land that witnessed cabins, homes and campgrounds pop up to cater to those who keep coming back year after year and those who are just discovering the getaway only a few minutes outside of Elkins.
Some call the river home year-round and other visit for vacation, yet there's not a hotel, in the traditional sense, anywhere in Bowden. In 1984, when Roxye Marshall purchased the Cheat River Lodge, there was no grand plan to attract tourists and provide more lodging for individuals and families escaping to the area along the Faulkner Road. She remembered that between the late 1980s and 1990s Bowden began to flourish: More people were coming to escape and the demand for more housing and campsites was fulfilled.
The allure of the quiet Monongahela Forest, the river and what both offer hasn't diminished, it's only become more popular, Marshall says. People want to leave the nearby metropolitan areas behind for a few days for a little solitude, she explained. Although there have been trends in resorts and package deals, some want to get back to nature. Parts of Bowden may feel worlds away, but the amenities of what a city can offer, such as shopping are just minutes away in Elkins, she added.
"They feel some freedom and some space," Marshall said.
For the last eight years Jerry Jerow has said farewell to his Huntingtown, Md., home when the weather begins to get warm. He sets up his camper for the summer at the Shavers Fork Campground. Later this month, Jerow will arrive back at the Bowden base camp to spend summer and part of fall taking in all of what the region has to offer, except for the famous trout fishing in the Shavers Fork.
"I don't fish, but I guess I probably should," Jerow said.
Paul Lucas of Morgantown began fishing in the waters of the Shavers Fork in the 1950s and has been going back ever since. In April, he, his son-in-law, Charlie Rowan of Morgantown, and brother, Bud Lucas of Piedmont, Ohio, were in town to fish, dig some ramps and camp along the river. Paul Lucas recalled that the area has changed since he was a child when there were no campgrounds or places to stay. He says plenty of camping options make the area appealing and convenient for a weekend trip to catch trout, relax and maybe look for some ramps.
There's some history to Bowden, including the cabin of former West Virginia Gov. William Wallace Barron. The century old log cabin with modern amenities and riverfront location is available for an overnight stay from Shavers Fork Riverside Cabins.
Cat Cole, owner of Shavers Fork Riverside Cabins, agrees that the river and all it offers is what has made businesses and places of lodging succeed over the years. Her rental units are a lot like a home away from home and can't get much closer to the river. Because the homes are right along the river, some of her guests will rent rafts from Revelle's and float home, she explained.
Over the years some of Cole's guests have documented the good times they've had in journals she leaves in the houses.
"This is our first time here and what a time it has been," one guest wrote. "River's Edge has felt like home since we pulled up on Friday. We needed to get away from it all and relax. We have gotten that more intensely than we ever expected.
"We have spent countless hours in the hot tub planning future visits and discussing who we would like to share this experience. We've found that we (debate) between selfishly wanting to keep this incredible spot a secret and bringing everyone we know with us."
Just down the road from the many rental cabins is the Cheat River Inn, which opened its doors in the 1940s as a fisherman's watering hole. The Cheat River Inn has passed through a few owners, but the casual atmosphere and long-standing deck above the Shavers Fork is still intact.
Around two years ago Nevil and Amanda Barr purchased the restaurant and have created a menu that offers a range new and original recipes passed down from past owners. Executive Chef Nevil Barr attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, prepares a range of dishes, including steak, sushi and a riverside restaurant's staple, fish.
When Nevil Barr has finished his kitchen prep work, he takes advantage of a working on the river perk. Amanda Barr says if can't find her husband in the kitchen, she knows he's probably on the river with a fishing pole. Nevil Barr isn't the only one having his own fun along the Shavers Fork, Amanda Barr explained customers and co-workers never know who or what else they'll see in the water from the deck.
The river isn't just a vacation spot for out-of-towners. Elkins businessman Mark Tomblyn escapes work and stress at his family's home along the river. Sometimes Tomblyn will leave town for a while to relax and let his dog play.
"Just look at the beauty of it -it's a great place to be," Tomblyn said.
Susie Calain, who owns Calain's Restaurant and Tavern on the Faulkner Road, is so attached to her surroundings that even losing everything during the 1985 flood couldn't drive her away from the river. She explained her husband wanted to move away; but Calain bucked the idea and remains by the river, her restaurant and some campground spaces she rents on a yearly basis.
"It's kinda like being on vacation most of the time," Calain said.
When it comes to work on the river, Calain cooks up Maryland-style crab cakes that have the ability to bring beach dwellers to Bowden, she said.
Artist and Cheat River Campground owner Michael Davis can offer his guests a different kind of experience along the Shavers Fork. At the Water Gap Retreat campers can sleep in elevated, water-proof tent shelters draped with Davis' dyed silk, which give the impression of stained glass windows. As part of the Water Gap Retreat, Davis offers classes on Appalachian culture and arts.