The New River which carved the New River Gorge, is a north flowing river. It's headwaters are in North Carolina, near Boone. From there it flows north through Virginia, and then Southern West Virginia, eventually merging with the Gauley and becoming the Kanawha River. About a century ago the gorge was the center of the West Virginia coal mining industry. It was dotted with mines and small towns supporting the miners and their families. The C & O Railroad ran through the gorge coal out of the gorge and bringing in people and supplies. As the coal industry changed the mining in the gorge was wound down, beginning in the 1940s until it was eventually stopped, leaving the gorge to be reclaimed by nature.
Today the gorge is a National Park, protected and preserved for future generations. The most visited area of the gorge is probably the Bridge. And, I mean THE BRIDGE! That's how we began referring to it in my family (lol). The bridge was completed in 1977 and it is the highest suspension bridge east of the Mississippi River.
The New River Gorge Bridge
It arching hulk is both picturesque and formidable. While visiting, the park we learned how much the opening of the bridge changed life in the area. Before the bridge opened the only way to cross the gorge was by traveling down the gorge, crossing a small bridge directly over the river, and then traveling back up the gorge. This trip of about 30 minutes was reduced to seconds when the new bridge opened.
For our trip to the gorge we started out by visiting the Canyon Rim Visitors Center. Unfortunately the Visitors Center was closed due to Covid, but the viewing areas were still open. They have a nice wooden walkway and stairway that allows you get magnificent views of both the bridge and the gorge below.
Views of the gorge and bridge from the Visitors Center
Next we took the Fayette Station Road to drive the gorge and get an up close look at the river. The road runs through the remains of two towns Fayette and South Fayette. There's not much to see though, we didn't see any ruins. My kids were a little disappointed because they were hoping for a Scooby Doo- like Ghost Town. On another trip we will visit the town of Thurmond (also in the gorge) for an actual Ghost Town experience!
The Fayette Station Road has an audio tour that you can download from the NPS website here. We really enjoyed listening to the tour and learning all the historical facts it provided!
Along the Fayette Station Road we did get some amazing views of the underside of the bridge, the rapids of the New River, and we did some hiking. Our longest hike of the day was a section of the Kaymoor Mine Trail. We hiked along an old mining road to see portions of an old coal mine. We only saw a section of the old Kaymoor Mine. If we had more time to hike we could've visited even more ruins. That's one of the amazing things about the park- it is chock full of ruins and historical sites, there is simply so much to see!
Here's what I am wearing: