TN-VA-WV: Stop 3, New River Gorge National Park-Day 2

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Tuesday was another beautiful day in Little Beaver State Park, Beaver, WV.  Last week when we looked at the forecast for this week it was predicted that we would have rain every day this week.  So glad we didn’t change our plans!  We are having so much fun in New River Gorge National Park and so far have had NO rain.

We were on the road early because we scheduled a bridge tour for 9:00.  The New River Gorge bridge is at the north end of the park and we are camped on the south end, about an hour away.  We arrived about 8:00 at Bridge Walk Tours and had time to go across the highway to the Canyon Rim Visitor Center to pick up some maps and also walk down to the viewpoint for the Bridge – 164 steps down and 164 back up – before our tour began.  Our tour guide was very informative and we learned a lot.  The construction on the iconic bridge over the New River Gorge was completed on October 22, 1977. It is inspected once or twice each year and during this inspection every bolt and piece of steel is inspected inside (the hollow areas) and out.  It is the longest single arch bridge in the western hemisphere.  It is the 3rd longest single arch bridge in the world.  It is the second highest vehicle carrying bridge in the US at 876 feet.  The bridge tour allowed us to walk across this bridge (3030 feet) on the 24” wide catwalk under the vehicle platform (highway).  We were attached by a harness so that there was no way for us to fall or jump off the bridge. It was very cool.

After the bridge tour, we went back to the visitor center and talked with the people there about various hikes.  Before lunch we decided to drive the Fayette Station Road which is the old road and bridge across the gorge.  Instead of the 44 seconds it takes to cross the new bridge, the Fayette Station Road takes about 1 1/2 hour to drive to arrive at the same place. The Fayette Station Road is a beautiful scenic and very interesting drive but surely the people trying to commute to work each day do not want to go back to the old road.

After grabbing a bite for lunch we then drove to the Endless Wall trailhead to start our hike for the day.  It was about a 3 mile hike through the shaded woods to Diamond Point with many viewpoints of the sandstone cliffs and great views of the gorge.  It was not as strenuous as the Canyon Rim Trail we hiked on Monday but was still a good hike.

To finish off our day, we made a trip to Thurmond.  Thurmond is about 40 minutes south of the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and is almost a ghost town.  It was once the heart of the gorge due to the trains running through the town and the coal mines in the area.  At one time there were 15 passenger trains arriving each day and in 1910 75,000 passengers passed thru the Thurmond depot.  The town now has 5 permanent residents, all of whom voted in the last municipal election – not many polling places can claim 100% of their residents vote. There is another Visitor Center at Thurmond in the restored train depot and the volunteer docent is excellent. There are a number of other exhibits and a walk thru “downtown” where there are more exhibits.  If you enjoy history and quirky little places, Thurmond is a must see when you are in the area.  It is also a pretty drive. Amtrak still stops in Thurmond and we just may plan a train trip through the gorge to see the fall leaves next year when we are back in this area. It was an active and full day but so much fun!

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