The Bluestone River, Located In The New River Gorge, Has Been Designated A National Scenic River
The Bluestone River is a tributary of the New River which it joins about thirty miles upstream from the New River Gorge Bridge.
It has its origins on the East River Mountain in Tazewell County in the neighbouring state of Virginia. The river eventually flows into the Bluestone Lake, a flood control reservoir, about four miles south of the town of Hinton at the southern end of the New River Gorge.
The river is 77 miles long and received its name from early European settlers in the mid 18th century because near its source the river runs over a streambed of blue limestone rock. Native Americans in the region had called it the "Momongosenka" which translates as "Big Stone River" because its course took it through a boulder strewn gorge.
Eleven miles of the Bluestone River was designated in 1988 as a National Scenic River. This chosen section runs through Mercer and Summers counties of West Virginia where it has carved a rugged gorge through the southern Appalachian Mountains.
Where it passes through this gorge access by any other means other than hiking is impossible. At the upstream end visitors can reach the river from the Pipestream Resort State Park. There is an aerial tram that will take you down from the park to the trail. Visitors from downstream can access that part of the river by way of the Bluestone State Park.
There is a trail called the Bluestone Turnpike Trail that follows this National Scenic River for its whole eleven miles. Canoeing or kayaking the Bluestone River is generally only possible during the spring run-off when water levels are high enough. However, the fishing along this stretch can be good with some nice smallmouth bass to be caught.
About two miles downstream from the Bluestone State Park the river joins the New River at Bluestone Lake.
The Bluestone Dam
This lake is a flood control reservoir created when the Bluestone Dam was built. The dam is 165 feet high and 2,048 feet long and was planned as long ago as 1935.
Construction on the scheme began in 1941 but was delayed due to World War Two and was eventually completed in 1949.
However, in recent years it was discovered that if the water behind the dam ever reached its calculated maximum during a flood then there was a chance that it would fail!
To solve the problem the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been carrying out a strengthening programme which is due to be completed in 2011.
At one time the Bluestone River suffered a pollution problem with a PCB contamination due to the coal mining that had taken place in the area. However, the state of West Virginia now classify it as a High Quality Warm Water
The Upper Reaches Of The Bluestone River
The National Wild and Scenic River System began in 1968 and on its 40th anniversary in October 2008 the Bluestone Scenic River was selected by the Department of the Interior as the representative for the official celebration to mark this occasion.