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The New River That Isn't New

Updated on October 7, 2021
Donetta Sifford profile image

Donetta is a freelance writer. She's had her poems published in Ink & Voices, The Mystic Blue Review, The Reverie, and Spillwords.

A View of The New River
A View of The New River

Flowing South to North

The New River is one of the oldest five rivers in the world; some historians believe its the 2nd oldest with the Nile being 1st. Approximately 360 miles long, the New River flows from south to north, beginning in North Carolina, traveling through Virginia and ending in West Virginia, near Charleston. The New River meets with the Gauley River and together they flow into the Kanawha River. The Kanawha River then flows into the Ohio River.

The New River was a larger river that scientist named Teays River. After the last continental glaciers buried the Teays River and thawed, the river was divided into smaller bodies of water that had formed.

There are a few theories as to how the New River was named. Some historians say the river was named by Indians and their dialect translated meant "New Waters." Other historians believe Captain Byrd couldn't locate the river on the Jefferson - Fry Map published in 1755, so he marked it "New River."

The third theory believed by many geologist is that Colonel Abraham Wood, who is considered to be the first white man to travel in the New River Valley area, came across the river and named it "Woods River." This name appears on some maps today.


A Little History

Giles County, Virginia claims 37 miles of the glorious New River. The depth ranges from a few inches to a maximum of 100 feet at the base of the Palisade Cliffs.

The Palisade Cliffs is the area where Mary Draper Ingles was found after her horrific escape from Ohio after being captured by Shawnee Indians in 1755. I loved watching the Mary Draper Ingles reenactment when I was a child and it's still active today.

In 1998, President Clinton signed a law that named the New River one of the first American Heritage Rivers due to its economical, cultural and historical importance.


The New River Gorge

The New River Gorge National River is the river's course in West Virginia. The New River Gorge Bridge was completed October 22, 1977 and was chosen in 2006 to represent the state on the commemrative quarter issued by the U.S. Mint. In 2013, the New River Gorge Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The New River Gorge Bridge is the third longest single arch bridge in the world.The steel arch spans 1,700 feet. It is located on highway US 19.

On the third Saturday in October, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce host "Bridge Day." On this day, the bridge is open to pedestrians and there are vendors set up offering everything from food to homemade crafts.

Bridge Day draws thousands of people enjoying music, activities, and BASE jumping. It's the largest extreme sports event in the world and West Virginia's largest one day festival.

Hiking on the New River Trail
Hiking on the New River Trail | Source


With the New River's ancient history, it's no wonder that people travel from all over the United States to camp, hike, fish, or enjoy many festivals held in all 3 states that share the New River.

There are also many places to go whitewater rafting and several places are set up to offer guided tours. The New River offers many parks throughout its course such as the New River State Park, the New River Trail State Park, Shot Tower Historical State Park, Claytor Lake State Park, and many others.

I have wonderful memories and photos from a field trip I went on with my daughter where we hiked 8 miles of the New River Valley Trail. The lake and river was spotted in various locations.

In my small hometown in Virginia the river is approximately an eighth of a mile from my home so my children and I enjoy swimming, tanning, and skipping rocks during the summer.

Would you BASE jump on Bridge Day?

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