Weather On The Water: Unique qualities about the New River

The New River is anything but new, as it is classified as one of the oldest rivers!
Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 2:33 PM EDT
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PEMBROKE, Va. (WDBJ) - For our final edition of Weather On The Water, I wanted to take you all somewhere that has a lot of history and is right here in one of our hometowns! Let’s checkout the unique New River.

New River in Giles county is where we are headed for this week's Weather On The Water.
New River in Giles county is where we are headed for this week's Weather On The Water.(WDBJ7)

The New River has many characteristics that make it a very interesting place to study. One of those is that it is known for being the oldest river in North America and the second oldest river in the world. “It’s a very strange thing that it’s cutting through the mountains instead of flowing along it. Now the word that we use for that is what’s called antecedent. It means that the river had to be flowing in that direction basically before the block of the topography was there. That’s why some people refer to the New River as being one of the older rivers, because it had to be there before the mountains were there,” says James Spotila, Professor of Geology at Virginia Tech.

Another very interesting thing about the New River is the direction that it flows. “One of the most unique features of the New River is that it does flow due north. So it comes into Virginia from the headwaters in North Carolina, flows through Virginia and then exits Virginia here in Glen Lynn. Makes its way to Hinton and then it eventually gets into the New River Gorge,” says Cora Gnegy, Tourism Director and Economic Coordinator for Giles County Administration.

“The New River flows across a lot of the Appalachians to end up eventually flowing to the Gulf of Mexico, but the New River is the only one that for a long ways is flowing to the northwest,” says Spotila.

Something you may not know is the impact the Roanoke River will have on the New River in the future. “This will be a tributary to the Roanoke River coming up in here and what you’ll notice is that this circle represents a place that is just south of Radford, Virginia and the New River flows in this valley here and this is basically a position that eventually the Roanoke River is going to eat it’s way through here and capture this entire part of the New River basin. At that time when this capture event happens in some period in the future, you know millions of years, when that happens all that water is going to instead flow through the Roanoke River and it will basically leave this part of the New River high and dry,” says Spotila.

He goes on to mention that the capture of the New River by the Roanoke River would essentially happen through the southern part of Christiansburg.

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