Geology of the New River Gorge

The New River\'s name is ironic. It might actually be one of the oldest rivers in the world. In fact, it\'s possible that the only river older is The Nile. New River Gorge - Geology

The New has been cutting against the Earth like sandpaper, carving out the New River Gorge for millions of years. But we can\'t be sure how many millions. Estimates range anywhere from 3 million to 320 million, which is a pretty big gap.

The River has worn itself into the Earth hundreds of feet, and each of those feet may have taken thousands of years to chisel away.

And as it has sliced deeper into the ground, the river has exposed very telling layers of rock and sediment. Most of it is sandstone, prime for rock climbers. Quartz is also thick in many of the lower climbing faces. Because it\'s a rougher material, it doesn\'t easily erode, making the Gorge cliffs steeply sloped.

The rock layers also included seams of coal, from 200-million-year-old compressed plants. The coal was easier to access in the Gorge because the river had exposed the cliffsides. More than 15 million tons of coal were mined out of the Gorge in the early and mid-1900\'s.

As the water worked its way deeper into the these layers of rock, it continued to pound massive amounts of water through a (relatively) narrow path. The water rushes hard around its obstacles, creating massive and chaotic rapids, falls and hydraulics perfect for whitewater sports.

Before the river even began whittling away the layers of the Gorge walls, the ground was forced up by continental collisions, forming the Appalachian Mountains. The impact of the continents, converging together into one formation, Pangea, created the peaks. These peaks filtered off the original massive body of water called the Teays River, which later formed the New River and several other waterways.

Have you stopped to notice the sediment layers of sandstone? What\'s your favorite natural feature of the New River Gorge?