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The Elk River is a tributary of the Kanawha River, 172 miles (277 km) long, in central West Virginia in the United States. Via the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers, it is part of the watershed of the Mississippi River.
The Elk is the longest river in West Virginia which flows entirely within the state's boundaries. It is formed in the Allegheny Mountains in Pocahontas County by the confluence of two short streams, the Big Spring Fork and the Old Field Fork, which join near the community of Slatyfork. It flows above ground for several miles before it sinks into a network of caverns and flows underground for more than five miles. The old riverbed of solid rock, however, remains above ground in this section known as "The Dries." It follows a generally westward course across the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau, through Randolph, Webster, Braxton, Clay, and Kanawha Counties, past the towns of Webster Springs, Sutton, Gassaway, Clay, Clendenin, and Elkview before joining the Kanawha River at Charleston.
At Sutton, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam causes the Elk to form Sutton Lake.
The Elk's largest tributaries are the Holly River and the Birch River, both of which join it in Braxton County.
The upper portion of the river, above Sutton Lake, is a popular coldwater trout stream. Below Sutton Lake, it is a high-gradient warmwater fishery well-known for its muskellunge, walleye and smallmouth bass fishing.