Friday, December 2, 2022

New River - An Unusual Linear State Park

September 7, 2022                                                           Most Recent Posts:
Stony Fork Campground                                     Another Visitor – Lucky Me!
Site 46                                                                      Jodee & Bill Visit Stony Fork
Wytheville, Virginia

IMG_3952While I was close by, I wanted to check out the New River Trail State Park.  It’s an unusual linear state park which follows the New River for 57.5 miles along the old railroad bed.  It’s wonderful biking.  But I didn’t bring a bike with me to the mountains so I hiked it which was just as lovely or more so since I wasn’t whizzing by anything.


IMG_3957The trail has several access points.  I drove to Foster Falls mistakenly thinking there might be falls there.  It’s at MP 24 on the trail and has the old train station made into a store as well as a small campground, boat, horse and bike rentals.  No falls exactly but cascading waters gliding over river bedrock with a background of limestone cliffs.   Very lovely but not a place I’d want to kayak.  Though there are two boat ramps I assume for when the river water is much higher.

IMG_3955The park is part of an historic district with 12 buildings built in the late-19th century. They include the iron furnace stack, the rail bed and frame railroad passenger station (c. 1887), a general store building, and a combination gristmill/sawmill. The district includes the fantastic Foster Falls Hotel, a late-Victorian style brick building. The hotel property includes two brick dependencies associated with an orphanage that occupied the hotel building beginning in 1938. It now serves as the headquarters of the New River Trail State Park though as it was under renovation when I was there, I’m not sure where the headquarters is now.  There wasn’t much in the train station except the place to get your $4 parking sticker and a small park store.


I hiked around the area before starting the trail.


In the 19th century dozens of iron furnaces and forges dotted the New River Valley due to its high mineral content.  Foster Falls was one of these built in 1880 and operated with water power from the New River.  The town sprang up around it and died with it.


Eerily there was no one around.  No campers or indication of programs in the amphitheater.


There were two of these buildings which based on the grille I took to be some sort of picnic shelter.


The campground was all walk in tent sites right along the river you can see in the far distance.


I’d never seen these before but the signs said they were carts to haul your camping gear in from your car.


I walked along the river as far as I could go imagining kayaking here.


I took it that these were the riffles that gave Foster Falls its name and the granite cliffs.


Benches along the banks at several spots but no one around.




It was very lovely and serene.  Not at all like the wild white water river I had heard about stretching over 300 miles with class I, II and III rapids.


I’m not a white water kayaker but I wonder if these even have a class.  Anyone know?





From there I headed back up to the rail bed and the trail.


A nice picnic spot along the river.


I wondered if the trains on the railroad had been as close to these rocks as the railbed made it look.


I wondered what happened to the train bridge as I doubt this was it.  I also wondered, if it was not, who built and paid for this pedestrian bridge.



After the bridge I stopped at an information sign for Jackson’s Ferry.  There’s no sign of where it might have been.  I learned that in 1770 established a ferry here across the New River, the only one in the region at that time.  After a huge dispute, the route was awarded to the builder and operator of the Shot Tower further on down the trail, Thomas Jackson.  His family ran the ferry until 1931 when an auto bridge was built.  No sign of that here either.


I arrived at a sign for the shot tower shortly and climbed the indicated set of stairs up to find a parking lot and information signs.


The information told me that Thomas Jackson came from England with “the trade secret of dropped shot” a process refined there.  The tower took 5 years to build, completed in 1807 to manufacture lead shot.  It was the first factory to mass produce shot in America.   It was in operation for only 32 years.  It appears they are right proud of this 19th century commercial venture in Southwest Virginia.  They have named this spot Shot Tower Historic State Park.  I guess that accounts for the parking lot.


Nice view from up here.


I walked down to the other side.  But there really wasn’t much to see.


I walked a bit further on before turning back and having the river on my left.


I was surprised to see buckeyes on the trail.   I didn’t see the tree.  I’m originally from the Buckeye State but left at age 21.   I think  Buckeyes are lovely with their shiny walnut color and distinctive eye.  Supposedly the color of a Buck’s eye.  But they are not edible and can be toxic.


It was a lovely shady walk.


It seemed a perfect bike path though I only saw two bikers the entire way.


By the time I returned to Foster Falls, I’d walked 6 miles.



  1. Wonderful walk! You are amazing!

  2. That's a beautiful place. Thanks for showing it. Are you in Florida now?

    1. I am in Florida now Tom and hope to get caught up to there within the next couple of weeks. I've already been to fort clinch and Gamble Rogers and arrived today at Wekiwa Springs.

  3. I don't know how you find all these beautiful spots. Love your pictures and descriptions of these places. Driven by Wytheville many times and never stopped to see much about the town although I know it's beautiful.

    1. If you are driving by Wytheville on I 81, you must have come very near the farm. I'd have loved to have you stop in if I was there. I pretty much showed everything in Wytheville. All my spots are from our country's beautiful National forest campgrounds or state and national parks.

  4. Good for you! Lovely walk (6 miles!) with some lovely scenery.

    1. Yes it was very nice and so few people using it.

  5. That is some huge tower, aptly named. I'd be shot just climbing up there with my love (not) of high places. That's why I joined the Coast Guard, sea level has a lot going for it! :cD

    1. I love your comments Paul. But you don't have to worry here, both the upper side door and the lower side door weren't open.

  6. What?! No pictures and tales of eateries! That’s not like you. LOL.

    With only one person - the gal with her bicycle - to be seen in all of your photos, the place appears to be deserted. I guess it’s nice to have the attractions all to yourself, but me thinks it would be delightful to meet and interact with visitors with like interests.

    Always enjoy your enlightening guided tours off the beaten path….❤️


    1. I have to stop being at all these eateries. You are right, all the folks I did see were on bikes.

  7. Replies
    1. Yes indeed William. As you know, I'm a fan of any kind of water.

  8. Replies
    1. Glad you thought so Gaelyn. I did too. Love the river.

  9. Beautiful place. I'm a Buckeye also - originally from Cincinnati.

    1. Well I'm sorry I don't know who you are but Cincinnati is not far from Dayton which is where I was born.

  10. I wonder what the minimum drop is for a waterfall to be called a waterfall. You are right, it looks like more of a riff. Regardless, it is a beautiful spot!

    1. That's a very good question. Even if the water were higher, I don't think it would qualify as a waterfall in my definition. Thanks for the comment.

  11. That looks like a wonderful bike trail! As you said, you see much more when you're walking, but it definitely looks fun to bike, too. And you can go much further on a bike. We'll put it on our list! :-)

    1. Being able to go much further is definitely the benefit of biking it. I think you'd enjoy it.

  12. That looks like a very nice hike! I had to look up the word "riffles"- I'd never heard of it. The river looked too shallow to kayak in a lot of the places. I don't understand how the shot towers worked. There sure are lots of structures build of stone. That old hotel is wonderful. I wonder if it had been kept up over the years or if it is in disrepair. My favorite picture is the one looking into the valley with the mountains behind. I love buckeyes- they are so interesting. I haven't seen any in ages.

    1. Your comments are wonderful. The shot towers were quite complicated so I didn't include that. You could google it but probably not worth it. I'd love to see the Hotel when it's open again

  13. Lovely post and hike. I like the stone buildings and view from the tower. 6 miles is great!!

  14. Bill & I rode the entire New River Trail on one of his fall breaks. We rented a cabin somewhere midway on the trail and were able to ride directly from the cabin. I went back in November, rented a cabin in Galax, VA at the south end of the trail and did a few rides from there. Good memories! All 57 miles of it is beautiful trail. There are a lot of great railtrails in southwestern Virginia. Hope you are having a good time in Florida.

  15. Geeeez, why would you think there were falls at Foster Falls? LOL That old hotel must have so many tales to tell. How wonderful to find a big, wide river in the middle of all that forest - love the granite hills along the water.

  16. Nice shot from the tower, also loved the big iron furnace. Haven't seen one that big myself.


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