History Lesson: New River Is Actually One Of The World's Oldest

The New River Gorge is part of America’s newest national park, and yet it is considered one of the oldest rivers in the world. The New River Gorge is famous for having some of the most stunning expansive scenery in the Appalachians, offering many recreational opportunities.

The New River is a river with a bit of a misnomer of a name, and it is considered one of the oldest rivers in the world. According to some estimates, it may be as old as 360 million years old. That means the river was around long before the dinosaurs. It would make it as old as the Late Devonian and Early Carboniferous Periods.


The New River – Possibly The Second-Oldest River In The World

The New River Gorge has a rich history – not only a geological history but also a modern history with Native Americans and pioneer settlers.

The ten oldest rivers in the world are believed to be the Finke River in Canada’s Northern Territory (350-400 million years old), the Meuse River in Europe, the New River, the Susquehanna River, the French Broad River, the Rhine, the Save, the Amur, the Macleay, and the Colorado River.

While some geologists dispute its status as one of the oldest rivers in the world, it is certainly one of the oldest rivers in North America. Its present course may have existed for the last 65 million years or so (around the time of the end of the dinosaurs). It has also been impacted by the last advance of the Pleistocene continental glacial ice.

The age of the New River has helped its habitats and wildlife to achieve a form of stability. Over millions of years, many species of both plants and animals have moved in and persisted there. There are also several species of fish found nowhere else in the world in the New River.

While some consider the New River to be the second-oldest river in the world (with an impressive age of up to 360 million years), others estimate it to be as young as 10 million years old. Over its many years, the New River has changed course.

Native Americans used the New River as they would travel westwards long before Europeans and the settler pioneers ever turned up.

Related: New River Gorge Is Worth Visiting, Here’s Why It’s So Amazing

New River & The New River Gorge National Park

The New Rivers starts in North Carolina in the Appalachians and then meanders its way through western Virginia to West Virginia before feeding into the Kanawha River. It is around 320 miles long.

One of the best ways to explore the New River Gorge is with the historic train. In the past, it served the region’s coal industry, and today it offers a trip back in time and through the region’s spectacular autumn foliage.

The national park was established in 2020 and preserves a stunning and historic 53-mile-long stretch of the New River.

  • Length: Around 360 Miles or 580 km Long
  • Age: 10-360 Million Years

When early explorers first found the river, they thought they were near the Pacific Ocean because of the unusual westerly flow of the river.

Related: This Is America’s Newest National Park, And Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting

The New River is known for being rugged and ideal for whitewater rafting through its deep canyons. It is reputed to be home to some of the nation’s best whitewater rafting. It is also great for canoeing and kayaking.

One of the most famous attractions is the iconic bridge built in the 1970s. The New River Gorge bridge is one of the few bridges that one can jump off. The annual Bridge Day dates back to 1980. It is some 876 feet tall and spans over 3,000 feet (making it the 2nd largest single-span steel arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere).

Apart from jumping off the New River Gorge bridge, one of the most popular activities is whitewater rafting (although arguably it is more thrilling to go whitewater rafting on the Zambezi under Victoria Falls, surrounded by crocodiles).

It is also great for fishing and is the perfect home for big smallmouth bass and flathead catfish. Pack the fishing tackle and haul in a few fine trophies. While much of the river is fast-flowing and great for rafting, parts are also lazy and slow (like around the dams), and these places can be great for fishing. Good fishing locations include Narrows, Pearisburg, and Eggleston in Giles County.

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