The New River Gorge is a must-see stop for history buffs.
We could give you the entire history of the New River Gorge and surrounding areas, but it would be a multi-volume encyclopedia series. From Original Americans, to early European settlers to industry, like salt, timber, coal and outdoor recreation, this area offers an overwhelming array of cultural experiences. Here are a couple to get you started.
Serving as a railroad town, Thurmond was at its heyday in the 1920's with more coal running through it than Cincinnati, Ohio. Today, it's one of the best places on earth to watch trains go roaring by.
Thurmond, West Virginia, population 6, in the heart of the New River Gorge, was established by Captain William D. Thurmond and incorporated in 1903. Thurmond hosted the Guiness Book of World Record's longest poker game, is one of Travel & Leisure's coolest ghost towns in America, is where the movie Matewan was filmed, and is a put-in for the Upper New River whitewater rafting community. Today, Thurmond is host for the Thurmond Triathlon and boasts beautiful trails for hiking and mountain biking with ample access to the New River for boating and fishing. Get directions.
But what makes Thurmond so cool is that it's a carefully preserved ghost town right on the bank of the New River. Easy vehicular access and still operational train tracks add to this special town's popularity. In downtown-ghost-town Thurmond, you can sit on the front steps of an abandoned bank and watch trains rumble by literally just feet away. It's utterly magical.
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Nuttallburg was one of almost fifty towns that sprang up along the New River in response to a growing nation's need for coal.
In 1870, England-born entrepreneur John Nuttall saw opportunity in the coal rich New River gorge and began buying land and building infrastructure along the Keeneys Creek drainage. When the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway was completed through the gorge in 1873, the town was ready for its arrival. Nuttallburg became the second mining town in the New River gorge to ship the "smokeless" coal, processed from a mineral seam hundreds of feet above the river corridor and shipped to industrial cities hundreds of miles away. Get directions.
At the turn of the 20th century, Nuttallburg was a bustling New River Gorge community. In 2011 the National Park Service completed a multi-year project that involved clearing vegetation and stabilizing structures. And now it is considered one of the most intact examples of a coal mining complex in West Virginia and one of the most complete coal related industrial sites in the United States. Today, from the drive to the bottom of the Gorge to the walk among foundations, tracks and early coal infrastructure still in place, Nuttallburg is one of the most unique and intense historical experiences in the New River Gorge.
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