After two years of limiting our excursions because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gail and I visited the youngest national park, West Virginia’s New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. We took the Moving House to Hampton’s Summer Wind RV campground near the park on Monday, September 20, 2021, stayed through the beginning of autumn on Wednesday, September 22, and returned home on Friday, September 24. We did not have the best weather. We had one beautiful sunny morning and one beautiful sunny afternoon, and one afternoon with heavy rain. The other times ranged from overcast to misting to light rain.

New River is misnamed. Because it cuts through the Appalachian Plateau, it is thought to be older than the mountains and, hence, hundreds of millions of years old.

Our first destination in the park was Sandstone Falls, where the 1500-foot wide river crosses a ledge. The falls come in two parts. On the east side, the river falls 25 feet over the Main Falls, while on the west, it first goes down a rapids and then falls 10 feet in the Lower Falls. The photo at the right shows the Main Falls from an overlook 600 feet above it. The Lower Falls are hidden behind the leaves at the upper right of the photo.

The Main Falls on a misty day and with low water flow

The Lower Falls

Some paw paw fruit on the Island Loop Trail at the falls

Gail examines Yellow Ironweed flowers on the Island Loop Trail

Us at the Grandview Overlook
Our second destination was the Grandview Overlook, about 1400 feet above the river. It was still cloudy, but we could see both ways to the bends in the river.

The hillside near the Grandview Overlook is covered with rhododendrons. It should be spectacular in the spring.

You can see railroad tracks on the east side of the river. We saw three full coal trains going south up the river, but did not see any empties going north. Amtrak also uses these tracks.

Looking north down the New River from Grandview Overlook

Looking south up the New River from the Grandview Overlook

Wednesday morning was beautiful. We drove north on back roads to the Canyon Rim Visitor Center at Fayetteville. The visitor center is near the east end of the New River Gorge Bridge that carries US-19 across the river. West Virginia is proud of this single-span, 876-foot high bridge. On the third Saturday of October, the bridge features BASE jumping which brings in lots of spectators. This event was cancelled in 2020 and again in 2021 due to pandemic concerns.

From the visitor center, we followed the one-lane, twisty Fayetteville Station Road to the botton of the gorge, across the river on a one-lane bridge, and back up the other side. Before the high bridge was constructed, this was the only way across the river.

We enjoyed our lunch at the bottom.

After we returned to the rim, it began to drizzle. We drove back toward our camp site, and stopped at the Babcock State Park. We got information about hiking trails there and looked at the historic Grist Mill, but then it began to rain hard and we gave up for the day.

Gail at the river level with the New River Gorge Bridge behind

The one-lane Tunney Hunsaker (Fayette Station) Bridge

Grist Mill at Babcock State Park

At the Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion.
Thursday morning started out overcast. We decided to look for the Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion, a historic structure that a construction worker staying at our campground had told us about. From 1835 to 1858, Blue Sulphur Springs was center of a major health resort with 200 rooms for guests. This pavilion was built over the spring, and now it is all that remains. It is in bad shape and a preservation organization is looking for funds to restore it.

After lunch, we visited the Bluestone State Park, where we hiked on the River View Trail under a sunny sky.

As evening approached, we followed the Greenbrier River upstream. We happened upon the John Henry Historical Park, but it was already closed for the day. There was an exhibit of some antique railroad gear outside the park.

On Friday. another beautiful sunny day, we returned home.

Waterfall by the River View Trail at Bluestone State Park

Antique Putt-Putt car used in track maintenance

We ate two meals in restaurants, both in Lewisburg, the nearest sizable town. The first was at the Humble Tomato, which served Italian meals and pizza, and the second was at the Briergarten, which specialized in beer and bratwurst. After we returned home, one of Al’s third cousins, once removed, posted a note on Facebook about eating at the Humble Tomato. It turns out that he lives in Lewisburg, but we did not know that. Next time we’ll try to get in touch.

We enjoyed driving on the backroads, highways 20, 26, 9, 31, 41, 3, 12, 63, and Blue Sulphur Springs Road, except when drivers were pushing us from behind. Blue Sulphur Springs Road was especially interesting. The road was paved, but it was only one-lane wide and it hosted two-way traffic. The northern five miles of the road from Smoot to Blue Sulphur Springs, which descended on the steep sides of hollows, was especially nerve wracking. The eight miles south from Blue Sulphur Springs to Alderson was still narrow, but the land was flatter and the road seemed wider.

The backroads in this region featured more churches per mile than Wisconsin or Michigan’s UP, but far fewer taverns. I wonder why so many churches serve so few people.

In addition to the scenery and the BASE jumping from the bridge, people come here for climbing - there are cliffs hidden behind the trees - and for white-water rafting. We did not do either of these. Therefore, new experiences will be available for us the next time we visit.

Responsible: Albert Holm
Created: 29 September 2021; Updated: 30 September 2021