A Hidden Treasure Beneath the Appalachain Mountains: J.Q. Dickinson Saltworks


A common question I'm always asked is "what is there to do in WV?" (place confused *emoji* here)! If your into outdoor activities - Oh and salt (yes, salt) there's many fun things to do.

Set between the mountains, in Malden WV, is one of the only salt mines in all of Appalachia - J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works! The staff at J.Q. Dickinson gave me a great tour and shared the history and their sustainable practices that shows their commitment to their values. Basically meeting the "moushmoush" criteria of going back to the roots and having the utmost care for the environment. 


A little history

Some 420 million years ago WV used to be the Iapetus Ocean geographically, that later became trapped beneath the Appalachain Mountains, hiding the salt that would be discovered by the Native Americans many years later. The Native Americans would take the brine from salt marshes to boil it and make salt. 

In the 1800's, the Dickinson family established a farm and salt mine in the heart of the Kanawha Valley. From its beginning stages it was recognized as "the Great Kanawha Salt" at London's World Fair. 

Today Nancy Brun and her brother Lewis Payne have revived their ancestors salt mine producing quality salt with no machinery. Nancy Brun, a chef, was concerned about where her food came from and the importance of sourcing farm-to-table quality food, so  she set out to preserve a WV heritage and her family's business.

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the process

Every step of the process is very carefully considered from how its made to what to do with the excess metals or minerals found in the brine. Something else to notice is just how the engineering and design to make the process work looks so pleasing to the eye!

Below is a step-by-step process of how the salt is made: 

1- When I say salt mine you're probably thinking some dug out cave in the mountains, but its a small well in the ground that I even completely missed to photograph! The well is dug about 350' deep and is connected to a pump. 

2- From the pump the brine (brine = saturated water) is drawn out to sit in a tank for a day. This process allows the iron that was drawn out with the brine to be separated. So what happens to the iron? it gets used as a dye for textiles! 

3- Once the brine is separated from the metal it gets transferred to a simmering hot sunhouse (and yes thats me in the middle of the summer walking through a sunhouse reaching 150 degrees!) 

4- The water evaporates and the crystals form. 

5- The brine leaves behind salt and nigari (nigari = ingredient used for tofu). The salt is compiled into a bucket and further dried in a separate room. 

6- Every step is done by hand so far, even the cleaning, sifting, and packaging of the salt! 

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There's so much history to walk through and explore at the Dickinson Museum, that I got to see a glimpse of on my tour and will later be opened to the public very soon. 


This post was only Part 1 of the tour! Head on over to Part 2  for more about J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works! Don't forget to share, subscribe and follow us on our social media accounts if you enjoyed this post ;)