Monday, August 08, 2011

Wild Wonderful West Virginia Part II

Part II - The New River

We arrived at our destination around 11 a.m. The day was overcast and foggy, which did not make for the best photo opportunities.

The Canyon Rim Visitor's Center. Inside there was a museum detailing the life of miners and Appalachian folk. They also offered a 10-minute film on the river and the local area.

The New River flows north - which most rivers on the east coast do not do.

The gorge was relatively inaccessible until 1873, when the railroad came in along the river. This allowed for shipments of coal. Mining towns grew up near the coalfields. There were many clashes between miners and coal company bosses. You can read about The Battle of Blair Mountain, which was one such fight, at the link.

The New River Gorge is the east coast's version of the Grand Canyon. The river is a tiny ribbon winding its way through a forested carpet. The river has rapids and is frequented by kayakers and fishermen. The ecosystem also houses many rare plants. Congress established three parks in 1978 in order to preserve and protect the watershed. The parks encompass 53 miles of the river and 40 miles of tributaries. The parks are called the New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Recreation Area, and Bluestone National Scenic River areas.

The New River is actually the oldest river in North America. The river has been heading north for 65 million years. The New River was once part of a longer river called the Teays, but about 10,000 years ago, glacial ice buried much of the river and changed its course.

The New River was in place before the Appalachian Mountains were formed. Scientists can tell this because it flows across the Appalachian Plateau, not around it. The river begins in North Carolina, then flows north into Virginia. It passes through Radford and eventually winds its way north to West Virginia. The river later merges with the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River.

The link here on Wikepedia has some good photos if you're interested.

Next: Part III - The New River Gorge Bridge


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