After a warm and mostly snowless December, January has produced one snowstorm after another. Taking advantage of the last storm over the past few days, I camped out near Fayetteville, West Virginia, and captured the scenery around America’s newest National Park: New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
Editor’s Note: This post is a companion to Winter at America’s Newest National Park: New River Gorge at American Byways.
If you viewed any of the major media outlets over the past week, their dire winter projections called for a massive snowstorm that would blanket much of Appalachia. Salivating over the possibility of up to a foot of snow, I packed up the Subaru with winter camping gear, camera equipment, battery packs, a shovel, and days worth of provisions and headed to the Mountain State.
The day before the storm was spent crisscrossing the New River Gorge region, which included a stop at the Trump Lilly Farm, an intact example of an early Appalachian subsistence farm along Freezeland Mountain, and Beartown Rocks, a small natural area with unusual rock formations along Droop Mountain.
I was initially disappointed in the outcome of the winter weather storm on the following day. Despite the forecast calling for major snowfall, and weather apps that were claiming six inches of snow on the ground, much of the New River area was bare ground. Sleet turned to rain before tapering off in the evening hours. The radar was showing little to no precipitation in the region.
On the third day of the excursion, I awoke from my campsite to find my car buried in at least six inches of snow. Quickly unburying the Subaru, I headed off to capture some aerials of the iconic New River Gorge Bridge. Carrying US Route 19 over the New River, this iconic structure is the largest arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the second-highest crossing in the United States. Despite it being a major north-south artery, traffic was slim despite West Virginia Department of Highway snowplows keeping the roadway as clear as they possibly could.
At its base of the gorge, in the shadow of the New River Gorge Bridge, is the historic Fayette Station Bridge that once connected the towns of Fayette and South Fayette. The Pennsylvania through truss was constructed in 1889 to replace a ferry and rehabilitated in 1997-98.
Unexpectedly, the winding road to Thurmond was unplowed but easy to drive. The old-and-reliable Dunloup Creek Falls was as pretty as ever and as we approached the unique multi-modal Thurmond Bridge over the New River, we saw an awaiting RJ Corman diesel locomotives that were about to embark on its usual route pulling empty hoppers along the Loup Creek Branch to a mine near Minden.
Further over at Prince is another railroad bridge, although this one is less photographed. The Prince Railroad Bridge, a two-span skewed Parker through truss and a single span skewed Pratt through truss, was constructed by the A. P. Roberts Pendoyd Iron Works in 1899 to serve Chesapeake & Ohio Railway’s Piney Creek Branch. The new line was being constructed from its mainline at Prince up Batoff Mountain to Raleigh and Helen. The bridge is notable for not having been significantly modified since its erection.
I am looking forward to future trips to the Mountain State. With more snow in the forecast, I am eagerly awaiting visits to other iconic sites in West Virginia.