Hoff's Aliner Travels
A Travel Blog for US and Canadian Parks with Geological Notes

Geology of New River Gorge National Park

The rocks in the New River Gorge are mostly from the carboniferous era (Mississippian and Pennsylvanian) with some from the early Permian. All were laid down long before the dinosaurs. Ice ages during this period caused increases and decreases in sea level. As forests were drowned and covered in sediment, they later turned to coal by the pressure of more sediment sinking them deeper and heat from the interior of the earth.

Geologists don’t agree on how old the river itself is and estimates vary widely from 3 million years to 320 million years. In favor of the older hypothesis is that the New River is the only river that still drains westward in this region. It cuts across three topographic/physiographic provinces of the Appalachians. We do know that this part of New River follows the same course followed by part of the ancient Teays River and is simply a new name for part of the Teays River system.

The ancestral Teays River had an enormous effect on interior America. With its tributaries, it helped carve the landscape of parts of present-day North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Teays ceased to exist in its western reaches with the coming of the Ice Age. At least four times lobes of the continental glacier covered parts of the Teays River, bringing to this region an arctic climate with mammoths, wooly rhinocerous, caribou, and musk oxen roving in front of the glacial ice sheets.

One of these glacial advances dammed the river with ice and debris at about present-day Cillicothe, Ohio, creating a large lake that backed up to the vicinity of Gauley Bridge. This caused the Teays to seek a new course skirting the edge of the glacier. The new course was and still is the Ohio River.

Return to New River Gorge National Park