We set out in the morning, driving South on Rt 221, heading towards Asheville.
We had crossed the New River twice before it occurred to me that we should look for a place to stop and have a look. The New River is well-known for tubing and white-water rafting, and I’ve always been curious. Just over the border between Carolina and Virginia, we were delighted to happen across the brand new North Carolina, New River State Park. Smelling of cedar, and with wide open views of the outdoors, the Visitor Center features an Amazingly Helpful Lady who gave us awesome directions and can provide the names of Carolina wildflowers from “looking-out-the-car-window” descriptions. The Center also offers an informative museum, a shop (from which I bought a nifty NC Wildflower & Tree Field Guide), restroom facilities, hiking trails and a wonderful back porch overlooking the New River Valley Forest region complete with rocking chairs!
I love the State Parks and their wonderful outdoor classroom environment. Every where you turn there is something new to learn! We found out that the nature of the forest has changed as a result of the Chestnut Blight in 1900. An estimated 3.5 billion American Chestnut trees, prized by the Native Americans and early settlers for their rot resistant wood, died. Within forty years the ancient American Chestnut forests were forever changed, their demise making room for Hickory, and Black Oak and Scarlet Oak trees to be fruitful and multiply.
The New River, one of fourteen American Heritage Rivers, isn’t really new. In fact it is the oldest river in Virginia, and believed to be one of the oldest on the continent. The New River flows northward (like the Nile, and the Shenandoah and Sandy Rivers in Virginia), through sections of western Virginia, and West Virginia where it becomes the Kanawha River, and eventually makes its way through Ohio to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi. Because of the types of rock through which it flows, geologists have proposed that the river may pre-date the rise of the Appalachian mountains. It is thought to have been part of the Teays River system, a large river basin that flowed northward from the Appalachian Highlands until diverted theoretically during the ice age.
At one time Appalachian Power wanted to use the North Carolina portion of the New River for a hydro-electric station, which would have require flooding the entire region. The successful grass-roots fight to halt the power station is documented in the museum, as well as information on the biosphere of the region and New River watershed.
#1 Son was all for renting tubes or a raft! Unfortunately, Mr. Garner had an itinerary, so we opted to spend a few moments dipping feet, studying river rocks, finding a snake, and enjoying flowers, butterflies, and the wonderful sense of utter timelessness one gets sitting in the dappled shade of trees by the river, lazily watching butterflies and bees zip around, and listening to water flow over rocks. The moments turned into over an hour, and finally, we had to drag our teen and tween away – from nature.
How cool is that?
I took a few pictures…
This is the second in a series of posts about our wonderful vacation in the Blue Ridge! Thank you so much for reading! If you are interested in the first post you’ll find it here: We set out accompanied by wildflowers.
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