Lakes & Rivers
New River State Park
A trickle near Blowing Rock, the South Fork of the New River gathers strength as it flows through the wildflower-strewn meadows and rugged hills of Ashe and Alleghany counties, cutting its way into rocks a billion years old. It eventually merges with the North Fork a few miles from the Virginia border to form a river that gets wilder the further north it flows.
But North Carolina’s New is tranquil and perfect for canoeing by beginners and families. Seasoned paddlers may not be challenged by the waters but will appreciate the tranquility and beautiful scenery along the way. Waders of all ages also can safely enjoy the cool mountain waters on a hot summer’s day.
There are numerous places to experience this National Wild and Scenic River, but the New River State Park is a favorite because it offers so many opportunities to explore. There are two drive-in access points, as well as one canoe-in section of the park. Canoe launch areas and campsites are available at all three park areas, as are places to picnic.
Besides good canoe access, the Wagoner Road entrance features a couple of good, easy hiking trails that allow you to learn about the river environment. Besides, it’s so cool on the Fern Trail underneath the canopy of beech, birch, black gum and yellow poplar trees. Depending on the time of year, you might see blooms on the rhododendron and native hydrangea or berries on the huckleberry canes.
Local fishermen argue that the best smallmouth bass angling in the state is in the chilly, shallow waters of the New. It’s easy to find a shady spot on the bank to drop in a line with a bobber and a red worm. If the smallmouth are not biting, the rock bass, more commonly known as redeye, probably will be. And catching a rainbow or brown trout is not out of the ordinary because many of the faster-running tributaries are stocked. South of the Highway 221 bridge, you might even catch a muskellunge in stocked waters there.
Our choice for wading is at the Highway 221 access. A shallow, rocky area at the canoe landing is the best place to let the little ones get their feet wet. Of course, more than their feet will get wet, so bring a change of clothes and take advantage of the nicely appointed hot water showers.
Our favorite way of enjoying the New River is atop a tube. Local outfitters abound near the parks, so it is easy to rent a tube or canoe. Most offer shuttle service as well. It’s hard to beat a lazy float down the scenic New from the Waggoner Road put-in to the US 221 take-out area. So, bob away your blues this spring and summer in America’s oldest river, the New.
New River State Park is located in Ashe and Alleghany counties. Wagoner Road access: from Jefferson take NC 88 Southeast and turn north on SR 1590. The access is located 8 miles southeast of Jefferson, and the park office is located just beyond the entry gate.
The US 221 access area is located 8 miles northeast of Jefferson, 1 mile upstream from the US 221 bridge at Scottville.
The Alleghany access area is located 1 mile from the North Carolina/Virginia border and may only be reached by canoe.
added: December 29, 2008
updated: December 31, 2008