American Locations 1 – New River

The trip is from New River,  West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 New River Wilderness Area, West Virginia

 

In September of 2017 I and my wife began another road trip. We drove northwest from Cincinnati up I-71 to West Lancaster, then turned south east on Hwy. 35. We passed through rich farmland until we crossed the Ohio River at Point Pleasant into West Virginia. The terrain grew steadily hillier as we continued mostly south to I-64. Then we headed east into Charleston, where we picked up Hwy. 60. This twisting curving two-lane road followed the Kanawah River high up into the Appalachian Mountains. A good scenic drive to begin our trip.

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We stopped at a small dam in the river to stretch out legs. This is where the Kanawah River joins the Gauley River to form the New River.

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We didn’t drive very far beyond this point before stopping once again to view a waterfall.

0003_waterfall

0004_waterfall

 

As we continued winding through the mountains we passed the Mystery Spot. This looked like the kind of roadside attraction that was popular in the mid-1900’s. Sadly, we didn’t stop to check it out. We did stop at Hawk’s Nest State Park.

417a_West Virginia

 

We checked out the lodge, which gave a good view out over the New River valley.

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In this photo you can barely see the New River Gorge Bridge.

0009_Hawks Nest

We continued east on Hwy. 60 from Hawk’s Nest State Park to Hwy. 19, where we turned southwest. This led us to the New River Gorge Bridge.

0012_Gauley Bridge

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We took a walkway down to a viewing platform below the bridge.

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That gave a good view of the valley the bridge spanned.

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It is an impressive structure. Here is an entry about it from the National Park Service site:

When the New River Gorge Bridge was completed on October 22, 1977, a travel challenge was solved. The bridge reduced a 40-minute drive down narrow mountain roads and across one of North America’s oldest rivers to less than a minute. When it comes to road construction, mountains do pose a challenge. In the case of the New River Gorge Bridge, challenge was transformed into a work of structural art – the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.

The New River Gorge Bridge is one of the most photographed places in West Virginia. The bridge was chosen to represent the state on the commemorative quarter released by the U.S. Mint in 2006. In 2013, the National Park Service listed the New River Gorge Bridge in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant historic resource.

Bridge Construction

The West Virginia Division of Highways chose the Michael Baker Company as the designer, and the construction contract was awarded to the American Bridge Division of U.S. Steel. In June 1974, the first steel was positioned over the gorge by trolleys running on three-inch diameter cables. The cables were strung 3,500 feet between two matching towers. Cor-ten steel, with a rust-like appearance that never needs painting, was used in construction.

Once a year the bridge is closed and the local population has quite a party:

On the third Saturday of October, the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce hosts “Bridge Day.” On this one day a year, the famous New River Gorge Bridge is open to pedestrians and a wide variety of activities—great views, food and crafts vendors, BASE jumping, rappelling, music, and more—draw thousands of people. Bridge Day is West Virginia’s largest one-day festival, and it is the largest extreme sports event in the world.

The first official Bridge Day was celebrated in 1980 when two parachutists jumped from a plane onto the bridge. They were joined by three additional parachutists, and all five then jumped from the bridge into the gorge. Today, the event lures hundreds of BASE jumpers, cheered on by thousands of spectators. “BASE” stands for Building, Antenna (tower), Span (arch or bridge), and Earth (cliff or natural formation), the four categories of objects in which BASE jumpers jump from. For more information, visit the Official Bridgeday website, or call the New River Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 927-0263.

 

I ripped off two images from the Bridge Day site, to give you an idea what the event is like.

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0012b

 

After visiting the New River Gorge Bridge we were ready to proceed to our campground. It had been a full day driving.

 

To continue to the next location, Babcock, click on February 2019 on the left sidebar, then scroll down to American Locations 2. From then on you can continue from one post to the next.

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