Mechanically, the river pushes its load of sand and other particles over the bedrock of the river channel and wears it down in a sandpapering action. The cutting takes place very slowly.
Erosion by New River has exposed several different rock formations. There are sedimentary rock layers totalling about 4,000 feet in thickness. As the river moves along at ever-changing speeds, it takes on all kinds of swirling motion, called eddies, whirlpools, holes, and reactionaries.
The New River Gorge Bridge was completed on October 22, 1977. Many technical problems had to be overcome. The bridge reduced a 40-minute drive down narrow mountain roads in order to cross the river.
The first settlers on the New River land belonged to the generation that established the earliest American frontier. Thurmond, a virtual ghost town located along the New River, was once among the greatest railroad towns along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.
The historic Thurmond Depot has been restored to serve as a park visitor center.
Most of the original deciduous forest stands and understory species have been impacted by past and current activities associated with timbering, mining, agriculture, transportation, utilities, and the exclusion of fire.
Power lines and rights-of-way present additional problems. Increased visitation to the national rivers has the potential to cause severe impacts to plant and animal communities, particularly those existing in the riverine habitats and rock outcrops.
See map of the park.
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(This page was updated in November 2012.)