New River Gorge
The New River Gorge National River is a unit of the United States National Park Service. Over the centuries, the New River has carved out a huge gorge through this part of West Virginia. Spanning the gorge is the New River Gorge Bridge, one of the most spectacular bridges in the world. At the bottom of the gorge are two railroad tracks owned by CSX. (One track is on each side of the river.) The tracks have been used for decades to bring coal out of various mines along the river.
The bridge is 876 feet (267 m) tall. It is the highest vehicular bridge in the Americas and the second highest vehicular bridge in the world. (The Millau Viaduct in France is now the highest.)
On the third Saturday of each October, the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic for "Bridge Day." On Bridge Day, BASE jumpers parachute off the bridge into the gorge below. This is one of the most famous events in the world of parachuting.
BASE jumping is a sport involving the use of a parachute to jump from fixed objects. "BASE" is an acronym that stands for the four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump:
* Antenna (an uninhabited tower such as an aerial mast)
* Span (a bridge or arch)
* Earth (a cliff or other natural formation)
For more information on Bridge Day, please visit: www.876ft.com
The New River Gorge is located about 1-1/4 hours north of Bluefield. From Bluefield, take I-77 north to exit 48, which is U.S. 19. Take U.S. 19 north for about 20 miles. Shortly after passing through the town of Fayetteville, you will cross over the New River Gorge Bridge. Just after passing over the bridge, take a right into the National Park Service visitors' center.
The visitors' center is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (except major holidays) and is free. The visitors' center has many displays on the gorge and the bridge. Be sure to walk outside to the three observation platforms for wonderful views of the gorge and the bridge. If time allows, drive back to Fayetteville using the old road. This road will take you down to the bottom of the gorge, across the original bridge over the New River, and back up the other side. You will pass under the New River Gorge Bridge four of five times as the old road twists and turns. (Ask the ranger at the information desk for a map of the old road.)
The New River is world-famous for its white water rafting and kayaking. It is also a great place for hiking.
Click here for the web site of the New River Gorge National River: http://www.nps.gov/neri/
Notice the original bridge at the bottom of the gorge.
See a video form CNN of the 2007 Bridge Day parachute jumps!