Matewan Floodwall

Matewan, WV

The town of Matewan has a unique feature that surrounds the entire downtown area – a floodwall. The exterior of the wall tells the history of Matewan through carefully placed vertical fluting that forms an etched mural. This feature is a must-see in town. Visitors walking the path see the art on the floodwall while enjoying the Tug Fork River.

The floodwall may spend the majority of its time as a piece of information art, but it also serves an important function. According to the former mayor of Matewan, Robert McCoy, the town was once described as having the most severe flooding problem in the United States. This label was well earned, as according to McCoy, by 1984, the town had faced severe, property damaging flooding in 33 of the prior 35 years. The most catastrophic floods occurred in 1957, 1963, 1977 and 1984. You can see the heights that these floods reached on the steps that lead to the river, and even as high as the floodwall.
Relief came in 1992 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began constructing the 2,350-foot long floodwall. Since the construction of the wall, there hasn’t been an instance of significant flooding within the downtown Matewan area.

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