The United States of America is a country that has many natural wonders. The state of West Virginia is a state that is mostly mountainous with very few cities. It has the largest wilderness area in the eastern part of the nation, and it is the home to the New River Gorge. At the bottom of this gorge is, of course, the New River which begins in Virginia and flows through West Virginia. It is where you will find some of the best whitewater rafting in the country. The New River Gorge is a very big gorge that was impossible to cross. The New River Gorge Bridge was an engineering marvel that allowed automobiles to go across without having to drive down and back up. If you are ever in West Virginia, the New River Gorge and the New River Gorge Bridge are two places that you must see.
Now some of you are saying, “Wow! I have seen many photos of the New River Gorge and I still have the West Virginia quarter that has the bridge on it. The New River Gorge would be great to see, but it is just a natural wonder. It has nothing to do with railroads. Therefore, I am not going to gorge myself about this place.”
The New River Gorge is a National Park run by the National Park Service. U.S. Route 19 runs across the New River Gorge Bridge. On the north side of the bridge is one of the Visitor Centers for the park, and it is here where you can get an overlook of the bridge.
From this point, you look down into the gorge. Did you know that you can go into the gorge… and look up? You begin your descent down into the gorge winding your way down. You go under the bridge to look up to see the massive structure. You get to the bottom, and the first thing you come to is… a railroad crossing. The tracks are original to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, but CSX continues to run on the tracks today. You cross the New River, and you see a railroad line on the other side. The railroad has been a major part of the New River Gorge and continues to follow the New River on the south side of the gorge towards the town of Hinton with the tracks coming together on the east side south of Caperton) and northward to Charleston (with the tracks coming together at Hawks Nest State Park). After you cross the river, you go under the tracks, and you head back up to the top of the rim.
The New River Gorge is a spectacular site to see, and it is more spectacular to see when a train is passing through the gorge.
The New River Gorge is a National Park located in southern West Virginia. You can go inside the Visitor Center and see how the railroad was a big part of the lumber industry in the gorge as well as the spawning of certain towns. There is no fee to the visitor center or to drive into the gorge but be advised that the roads are very windy and may not be suitable for larger vehicles particularly buses and recreational vehicles.
The next time you see photos of the New River Gorge, think of it as a natural wonder, and a place where you can go to the bottom… and watch trains go by.