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A Salty Experience in Charleston, West Virginia

One place I did not get to go that will top my list on my next trip to Charleston, West Virginia, is J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, a family-owned, seventh-generation salt-making destination that hosts groups for tours, traditional meals and events.

This authentic stop is in nearby Malden, about four miles from downtown Charleston. The Kanawha River region of West Virginia was once known for its salt production. In the 1800s, Appalachian salt was mined by drilling wells that captured briny water from an ancient underground ocean beneath the mountains. In its heyday, more than 3 million bushels of salt were hand harvested and processed each year.

The salt was so good that in 1851, Kanawha River salt from West Virginia was named the best salt in the world at the World’s Fair in London, England.

Brother and sister Nancy Bruns and Lewis Payne are family descendants, and they re-established J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works in 2013. The company is now a growing sustainable tourism destination in the state. With advance reservations, groups can tour the grounds and shop for handcrafted salt products in the company’s gift shop.

“We’re getting more requests to tour the operation all the time,” said Nancy Bruns. “We’re available for tours and meals basically from late April through October. If the group is larger than 25 people, we’ll break them into two groups. With advance reservations, we can bring in a caterer and do a meal. We have several rooms where that can be done.”

Covered recently by magazines like Bon Appetit, The Atlantic and Rolling Stone, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works is a side trip any group would enjoy during a visit to Charleston.

Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.