History of the Kinzua Valley


In the late 20th century the Kinzua Valley was mainly a haven for sportsmen.  The chief attraction to the Village of Westline was the Westline Inn, and it's reputation as a friendly place for a splash of refreshment and fine food grew.  Kushequa remained virtually unchanged, with the remnants of the old manufacturing plants slowly deteriorating.  Oil and gas development began to encroach upon the area around Westline in the late 1980's and many new lease roads were built.

Kinzua Bridge State Park became a focal point for tourists and the bridge's fame as an engineering marvel spread.  Also, an excursion train began transporting sightseers over the viaduct for a dramatic view of the Valley.

During the mid-1970's, a group of outdoors enthusiasts based Westline formed an informal organization to maintain a series of cross-country ski trails that were on National Forest property and led to the village.  This group also volunteered to help prepare the trails for the American Cancer Society's "Ski-For-Cancer" benefit and the Westline Dog Sled races. The group eventually came up with the concept of transforming the old railroad grade that ran through the valley into a non-motorized recreational trail.

In 1999 a formal organization, the "Kinzua Valley Trail Club" was formed from this nucleus that included other individuals that also saw the potential for the project. Because of the scope of the twenty two-mile trail's project cost, the organization became incorporated as a 501(c)3 entity to raise money and attract volunteers.  Using volunteer labor and donations of equipment time and professional engineering help, the club was awarded grants to go towards construction of the trail and related facilities.

Rehabilitation work began on the trail to the west of Westline on an easement granted by the Forest Investment Association of Atlanta, Ga.  The Lafayette Township board of supervisors allowed the club use township property in Westline to begin construction of a trailhead building.  The bridge over Thundershower Run was repaired, and the club paid to have an access road improved to get to the trail.  

However, in July of 2003, the organization and the entire region experienced the tragedy of the partial destruction of the Kinzua Viaduct by a Class 1 tornado.  On the surface, this development appeared to be a blow to the club's goal of building a trail to the State Park at the bridge.  The KVTC however, realized how much the trail could benefit the viability of the park and add to it's attraction for an entirely new group of individuals.  The Kinzua Bridge Visitor's Center was completed in 2015, and now thousands come from all around to see the remnants of the great bridge and learn it's history at a museum on site.

The Kinzua Valley Trail Club continues to pursue the completion of the trail from Westline to the Kinzua Bridge - firm in the knowledge of its recreational, aesthetic, and economic benefit to the state park and the region as a whole.

As the Kinzua Valley continues to evolve from its rough and wild roots to the present, the one constant has been its attraction for those who come to experience its unique beauty.  These people not only have become observers of that history, but in the process, have also become a part of it.