Contributed by Deane and Garvey Winegar
At 350 million years old, the New River is hardly
"new" at all. In fact, many geologists believe the New is second
only to the Nile as the oldest river in the world. In prehistoric
times, the river flowed north to the St. Lawrence River on the
United States border with Canada.
During the Ice Age, glaciers carved up the New River, diverting it
into the Ohio and eventually the Mississippi. The New River is also
one of the few major rivers in the world to flow north. All other
major waterways in this section of Virginia flow either south, east,
or west, and thus take a more direct path to the Chesapeake Bay or
the Gulf of Mexico. The New River is on of the few rivers in North
America to flow south to north, and the only river to cut through
the entire width of the Appalachian Mountains.
Because of the outstanding mountain and pastoral backdrops and the
uncommonly clear waters that support a healthy ecosystem, the New
River is ideal for boating, fishing, swimming, and snorkeling.
Besides several varieties of fishes, the river teems with freshwater
mussels and sponges, crayfish, salamanders, and snails. Raccoons
leave little piles of shells where they've eaten mussels at water's
edge. Ducks nest in roots and tree hollows along the banks and up in
grassy creeks and marshes. Red-winged blackbirds make nests where
there are cattails and reeds.
The North and South forks of the river converge on the Ashe and
Alleghany county line in North Carolina, just south of Grayson
County, Virginia. The river flows into Virginia near a tiny
community called Mouth of Wilson, a southern gateway to some of
Virginia's most spectacular mountain scenery in Mount Rogers
National Recreation Area and Grayson Highlands State Park. The
ancient New then begins its extraordinary 160-mile journey through
Virginia and into West Virginia.
As it flows north, the river alternates between wild forests and
languid farmlands. In keeping with the habit of rivers, the New
follows a scenic path seldom seen by travelers on highways and
byways. In passing through the Blue Ridge Mountains, it picks up New
River Trail State Park, which follows it from Fries at the
Grayson-Carroll county line north to the backwaters of Claytor Lake.
Claytor Dam, south of Interstate 81 and Radford, temporarily holds
back the river while the Appalachian Power Company harnesses its
energy. Then the New meanders north on the second half of its
passage through [More ...]