5 unique things you’ll see from the rapidsSeptember 8, 2016
Search for shoreline surprises on your next trip down the New and Gauley rivers.
The ride’s the thrill, but some of the most intriguing history, scenery and natural features are along the banks. Just keep your eyes peeled!
Watch for these along the way:
1. Jump rocks
Ignore the blunt, unimaginative name. It doesn’t do justice to the tingling thrill you’ll feel when you stand on the edge of these massive shoreline boulders. And jump right in!
The New River has several dive-worthy boulders, and the best one— the Jump Rock— is on the Upper. Will you take the plunge? The Gauley River also has its share of jump rocks.
2. New River Gorge Bridge
While it’s hard to miss the longest steel-arch span in the western hemisphere, it’s an entirely different experience to see it from the river.
For example, did you know the New River Gorge Bridge is one of America’s highest? You’ll appreciate that statistic when your kayak drifts under the 876-foot-high arch.
Here’s another fact: it’s also one of the most photographed landmarks in West Virginia. Don’t miss out! Snap a picture from your waterborne perspective.
3. Ghost towns
Back when coal-laden trains whistled through the Gorge, little mining communities and depots popped up around the gorge. You can still spot several of these towns— now abandoned— from the river.
One of the best-preserved mining towns is Thurmond. In its heyday, more than 12 passenger trains stopped at the depot daily. Coal, steam locomotives and wealthy barons kept the community humming. Unfortunately, new diesel technology and lower mine yields overtook Thurmond.
After your rafting trip, stop by the faded yellow train depot, which is now a visitors’ center. And explore the rest of Thurmond: you’ll find late 19th-century buildings like a bank, Chesapeake & Ohio coaling tower, and the Goodman-Kincaid Building— a proud 3-story brick structure.
You may also paddle by Sewell. This ghost town used to manufacture coke, a coal product used for steel. Discover the old coke ovens, rusty railroads and the remains of a machinist’s shop.
If your outfitter takes you over Ledges Rapids, look for Thayer. Almost 100 years ago, the Ephraim Creek Coal and Coke Company kept the town alive. All that’s left now are coal silos, vine-choked walls, a machine shop and a few old company houses.
4. Riverside surprises
Some surprises are truly unpredictable. Like the New River’s Seldom Seen— a rapid that appears only when water levels are just right. It’s no wallflower, either. If you cross its path, be prepared for a brawl!
The New River is also famous for bald eagles. These noble animals are attracted to the Gorge’s rugged cliff faces, swift river and relative isolation. Brooks Island near Sandstone Falls even has a nesting pair.
5. Civil War scenery
Along the Gauley River’s wild banks, you can catch a glimpse of the Carnifex Ferry Battlefield, site of a Union victory over the Confederates in the Civil War. Believe it or not, the retreating troops crossed the mighty Gauley— at night!
What have you spotted along the banks on your river trips?