The origins of The Great Kanawha River Navy can be traced back to 1970. That year the West Virginia Institute of Technology in Montgomery (now West Virginia University Institute of Technology) held an oil drum regatta. Businessmen from the Kanawha Valley with an affinity for river recreation helped to sponsor the event.

In 1971, these men organized into The Great Kanawha River Navy (TGKRN). Charter members include Lawson Hamilton, Fritz Howard, Charlie Jones and Pete Denny. That was also the year that Jones' teen-age son, Nelson, came up with the idea for the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta. The Navy helped to make the younger Jones' idea a reality.

For almost 50 years, the organization behind the first Charleston Sternwheel Regatta has been cruising the waters of the Kanawha River and encouraging others to do the same. The Navy also started the Anything That Floats race (a Charleston tradition for many years) in which competitor’s race boats made from everything from barrels to bedpans.

The general purpose of The Navy is:

  • To promote and incorporate conservation and environmental efforts associated with the waters of the Great Kanawha River and its tributaries
  • To promote, sponsor, and encourage water celebrations, boating, and other recreational activities on the Great Kanawha River
  • To provide activities which promote the edification and social enrichment of the individual member

While starting small in size in 1971, today The Great Kanawha River Navy has almost 100 members. All Navy members carry one of two ranks; Admiral or Fleet Admiral.

To contact us write to:
The Great Kanawha River Navy
PO Box 144
Dunbar, WV 25064
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