When I grew up in Harrisville, WV, the North Fork of the Hughes River was where we went fishing. We'd walk down the dirt road from town to the old bridge that crossed over the river. Near the bridge was a place where you could always find fossilized ferns in the shale. We skipped rocks, fished and hunted crawdads during the summer months. There were a few deep holes but mostly it was shallow. Not a lot of fish but a lot of fun.
The road from the other end of town went to the dam. There was a swinging bridge that made my stomach churn. We had both birthday parties as kids and drank other beverages there as we got older. Again, a nice place to go.
The problem was that occasionally there'd be a big flood. When all the water headed out of the hollows and into the river, it headed for Cairo, WV. This caused problems for those fine folks since they had their homes damaged or destroyed. Cairo isn't a large community but they had a lot of problems from the flooding.
At some point, the US Government decided to build a dam to create a watershed to protect Cairo. At least that's my opinion. They also indicated the lake would be great for recreation and bringing people into the county. It would also be a wonderful addition to North Bend State Park.
When construction started on the dam, one of the first things they did was close a very nice campground along the river. It was shaded and flat. They picked a hill side back towards town, put a sign in and declared it to be the new campground. It was OK unless you wanted a flat site or shade. They also had to buy right-of-ways around the lake. This got very expensive. Folks started to realize that they didn't have to accept the government's offer for their home but could go to court. It turned out that the juries were sympathetic and land got expensive.
The dam was completed in 2003 and the lake filled. Its 300 acres and about 8 miles in length. They stocked it with fish but most is catch and release. The muskie fishing seems pretty good even if you can't keep them yet. Other than fishing, there isn't much in the way of recreation around the lake and there aren't many places where you can actually pull out. I don't know what the original plans included but there wasn't much done. Some small paddle-in campsites and picnic areas would be nice additions. I don't know if its name is really the North Bend Lake or the North Fork of the Hughes River Lake.
With all that said, I like the lake. We're kayakers and its a very nice place to explore and paddle. You don't have to dodge fast moving boats. The largest motor allowed is 10HP. It isn't usually crowded with people fishing but you'll see a few. I don't know what the people in Ritchie County think but I imagine they have mixed feelings due to the families that were relocated.. The old bridge is gone. You must go around the lake rather than going across the river.
There are 3 main points where you can enter the river. As you leave Harrisville going toward North Bend State Park, you can launch from under the bridge. It gets crowded with people fishing but if you find a place to park, its a good point to launch. You can also keep going on the park road and you'll see a road to the right beside the new "campground". It takes you to a nice launch in behind what was the Cokeley place. The third launch is a little harder to find but is near where the old dam was. Plenty of parking and a pretty spot on the lake.
If you've never been there and want a place to paddle, check out the North Fork Hughes River Lake. Its good for a day paddle but isn't long enough to completely wear you out. Its located near North Bend State Park where you can camp or stay in the lodge. The North Bend Rail Trail offers biking or hiking on the old railroad bed. We used to walk this as kids when there were still rails and trains. If you are curious about Ritchie County, you can visit the Ritchie County web site.