The Famous Blackwater 100

Great moments in ATV history

— “The Blackwater 100 is the race that time forgot. It starts in the streets of Davis, West Virginia, and goes out of town to wander through rivers, mountains, swamps and fields. The terrain is as varied as any in the world. To complete one loop of the Blackwater, a rider has to muscle his way through swamps the size of a college campus, mud holes as deep as the Amazon, squared-edged shale uphills, steep rocky downhills and very, very tight woods. If a rider can survive all this, near the end of his first loop he’ll encounter the worst obstacle of all— the Highway 93 river crossing. Then he passes through town and stops at the scoring barrels. At this point a very nice-looking young lady will mark down his number, tell him he’s completed only 20 miles and send him back out to do four more laps.”


These were the words of the Dirt Wheels editor as they appeared in our October 1986 issue. He was sent from our office in California to West Virginia so that he could report on what it was like to race in the Blackwater 100. This was a grueling cross-country race that got started in 1975 for dirt bikes. A class for three-wheelers was added in 1983, and then most of those entries became quads a few years later, Due to its rugged terrain and obstacles, it became known as “America’s toughest race.” It would usually draw an entry list of 300 riders. Most would be regular racers from the cross-country series, but it also attracted hard-core trail riders who just wanted to test their skill and endurance. Being able to say that you completed the full 100 miles of the Blackwater would automatically earn you respect among any elite group of riders.

So whatever happened to the legendary Blackwater 100? Well, it suffered the same fate as many of the other famous races of the “good old days.” Much of the Blackwater’s course ran across private land owned by a power company. A study found high levels of toxins in the water, and the company executives became concerned about public safety and lawsuits. The land was no longer available after the 1993 event. The race now only exists in the memories of those hardy adventurists who felt compelled to sign up for that legendary ride.


I never rode the Blackwater 100, and I wish I had. As you grow older, it’s not the things you did that you regret the most; it’s the things you didn’t do. I’ve always thought about riding a quad as fast as I could to the top of Pikes Peak. Maybe I should do so next year just in case that famous event suddenly comes to an end.

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