New River Valley Virginia
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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 ...]

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