It has often been said that Cheat Mountain and River got their named because both have cheated many people out of their lives by drowning or by isolating them in severe winter weather. This could be quite true. However, the real reason this area got its name is from a French explorer named Cheat or Chaet, or from an abundance of cheat grass (a possible misidentification of frost-killed wheat) growing along its banks. The Delaware Indians name for the Cheat River was "Ach-sin-ha-nac" meaning stony river.
The source of the Cheat River is at Parsons where five different streams - Shavers, Black Fork, Blackwater, Dry Fork, and Glady - unite. This is often referred to as the Five Forks of Cheat. Northward, the Cheat River flows through Tucker and Preston counties. It then flows through a very impressive gorge that can be seen from the overlook at Cooper's Rock State Forest. Just north of the West Virginia state line, it joins the Monongahela River at Point Marion, Pa.
The Cheat River is known for its many deceptively deep sections with whirlpools that have presumably "cheated" people of their lives by drowning them. According to a retired Elkins doctor, about 10 years ago a physician's assistant was kayaking in the Cheat River a few miles from Parsons. This kayaker ran into a low-hanging tree limb and was knocked over in swift water and drowned.
Cheat Mountain is a high and rugged ridge about 50 miles in length and more than five miles wide at its widest point.
This ridge traverses the entire length of Randolph County. The most northern point is just west of Parsons; the most southern is about 5.5 miles south of the Randolph/Pocahontas County line near the community of Stony Bottom. The highest point on this ridge is at its southernmost end at Thorny Flat, which is 4,848 feet in elevation. There are several other points along this ridge well above 4,000 feet. Here is another area where the weather can change radically in a very short period of time. This also could be the main reason why many loggers were cheated out of their lives during the logging era of the early 20th century.
The Cheat Wildlife Management Area takes in 80,771 acres, all in Randolph County, and is owned by the United States Forestry Service. A hunter will usually find an abundance of black bear, wild turkey and snowshoe hare in the higher elevations; squirrel, grouse and woodcock in the lower elevations. Beaver, fox, raccoon and bobcat trapping is also popular in this area. Anywhere in this WMA is a great place to deer hunt. Trout fishing is available in the 302 miles of streams. There also are several primitive campsites distributed in this area.
When hunting in this location for the first time, I highly recommend that a hunter study topographical maps of the area where they are going. These maps are inexpensive and readily available from the Monongahela National Forest Office in Elkins.
I have only hunted in two locations of the Cheat WMA to any great extent. One is in the Files Creek Area. I have taken several squirrels, a few deer and my first and only wild turkey. The other area is north of U.S. 250 in the Cheat Bridge area. This location is quite wild or primitive. I have often said a person could hunt here all day and never see another hunter except for maybe the first week of the buck gun season. Unless you know this area quite well, I do not recommend anyone hunting this location alone. Anytime I went to this area I was with a person who knew the area quite well because he had been hunting in the location for several years.
While the Cheat area is a wild and wonderful recreation area, please respect it and try to avoid becoming another statistic.