The New River has spent millions of years carving a bucolic gorge in West Virginia.
It is now home to one of the most biodiverse forests on the continent. And while humans have tracked prey along its jagged cliffs for thousands of years, now most people come to the gorge to find adventure. Its sandstone cliffs make for world-class rock climbing.
The whitewater rapids in the river below provide some of the wildest rafting on the east coast. This natural playground was something of a loosely kept secret for many years. But now, the secret is fully out. It is to the delight of many — but not all.
Locals are worried the area is not ready for the national spotlight. This story was originally published in the August issue of Wonderful West Virginia. The rocky spine of Seneca Rocks. The gleaming Capitol dome set against a kelly green mountainside.
No pictures are necessary to conjure these images in the mind of a well-traveled West Virginian, and for good reason. They are also inescapable, emblazoned on countless coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, and mousep. So, imagine a valley where a river once ran, with rock formations as big as houses and rock faces stretching to 50 and feet, populated by animal life few people have seen in its natural habitat.
This place exists, and anyone can visit. You just have to find someone who will take you beneath the surface of Summersville Lake. Danny Martin has been diving the lake sincewhen he agreed to trade work on some jet skis for scuba certification classes.
If I like it, great. Now, with more than two decades of diving under his weight belt, Martin knows the lake as well as anyone and can show his students all the most interesting spots. Long Point is probably the most popular destination.
Once the dive boat moors at this often-photographed peninsula, students have the choice of heading off in one direction to explore cliffs, swimming another way to check out huge rock formations, or kicking their way through one of the multiple swim-throughs that run beneath Long Point. Divers can swim up, fill the dome with fresh air from their regulators, and surface inside the bubble for a quick chat.
Martin also takes divers to Waterfall Cove, where the bottom of the lake slopes off from the shore. The magic of Summersville Lake lies in its history. Construction would not begin for more than two decades as land agents bought up property for the project, including the entire communities of Gad and Sparks.
Workers finally broke ground in February The dam took six years to complete. Boaters were on the water almost as soon as the lake was filled. The lake became an even more popular hangout with the opening of campgrounds and the beach. But not everyone was content to remain on the surface.
Adams saw that the rock formations jutting above the water also continued deep below, providing a diver with lots of nooks and crannies to explore and aquatic life plenty of places to live. He also found that, because the shores of the lake were surrounded by rock cliffs and not sand or dirt, the wave action near the shores did not muddy the water.
The underwater visibility, on good days, stretched to 20 feet and beyond. And because the dam was constantly pulling the coldest water from the bottom of the lake, the lake maintained a comfortable temperature.
Route He and his sons began offering classes and outfitting fellow divers. He would rush home from school to catch reruns of Sea Hunt, which starred Lloyd Bridges as a scuba diving, crime fighting former U. Navy frogman. But byAllen was teaching high school science at Midland Trail High School, just a minute drive from Summersville. He took diving classes from a guy in Oak Hill named Cooter.
The dive shop eventually moved from the garage to a spot near the lake marina. Allen and his brother Eric bought the place in when Adams retired. Mike Nadler started going to the lake regularly after he opened Divehards International, his Pittsburgh-based diving instruction company. He says his students appreciate the wealth of hotel, camping, and dining options in the area.
But the lake is the main attraction. The variety of depths available also make it a great place to safely train beginning divers. By mid-June things have cleared up a bit, and the conditions persist through August, when the Army Corps of Engineers begins drawing the lake down for Gauley Season.
This story originally appeared on the October issue of Wonderful West Virginia. Not much remains of the ancient stone walls on Mount Carbon except some piles of rock and lots of questions. This is a mystery story, but not the kind with private detectives or jewel heists or purloined letters. This is something deeper, older, stranger.
Along the Kanawha River, on a steep hillside above the tiny community of Mount Carbon, loom the remains of ancient stone walls. No one knows who built them. No one knows how old they are, although they are certainly very old. No one knows why they were built. John Rutherford stands beside Wall 3 in during one of the many expeditions to Mount Carbon in western Fayette County. The investigation into this mystery has been underway for well over years.
So far, it has yielded little result. The answers, for reasons this article will soon reveal, are probably lost to time. Yet generation after generation of detectives have taken on the case—and the inquiry continues even to this day.
The first written mention of the Mount Carbon walls dates toin George W. The author talked with locals but did not personally visit the site, and it shows. The first detailed study did not occur until October when Dr. John P. Hale—a Kanawha County salt and ferryboat magnate, Confederate Army surgeon, banker, and historian—hired a team of surveyors to investigate the walls.
His report, compiled in the pamphlet Some Local Archaeology, provides a much different image of the ancient stoneworks from what earlier writers cooked up. The team found no evidence of burials, pottery, tools, or other proof of human habitation. Studies of the walls continued into the 20th century.
John Inghram and Sigfus Olafson of the West Virginia Archaeological Society produced a detailed report about the walls and explorations of the area.
They describe five windrows scattered hundreds of yards apart on the hillsides above Mount Carbon. Although the structures were all built in a similar curved shape, they came in varying sizes: Wall 1, for instance, was only about 2 feet high, 20 feet wide, and a few hundred feet long, while Wall 3 was ificantly larger at 25 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and longer than two football fields.
In the summer ofUniversity of Georgia archaeologist James Kellar spent six weeks on Mount Carbon as part of an expedition sponsored by his institution and the West Virginia Archaeological Society. He had to bushwhack through the thicket with a machete just to reach the walls, so he made camp on the hillside to avoid a treacherous daily commute. He searched for artifacts in 11 areas with high concentrations of flint but found only one relic of consequence: a scraping tool. He discovered the rocks were laid in no apparent order—the builders, whoever they were, set some vertically, others horizontally, and some tipped at an angle.
The excavation must have been back-breaking, shirt-wringing work, especially in the humid West Virginia summertime. Despite the lack of historical evidence, researchers have been able to make some educated guesses about the walls. Olafson hypothesized they might date to the Archaic period, 8, to 2, B.
Casual Dating Wildcat WestVirginia 26376 suggested that, since the Mount Carbon walls were similar to the earthen-walled hilltops in the Ohio Valley built by people of the Middle Woodland era— B. He says that group, which inhabited the valley from B. Archaeologists have some guesses about the purpose of the walls, too. Atkinson, in his falsehood-filled report, surmised the walls were used as animal pens. Others suggested they might have been used for military purposes. But researchers quickly dismissed these theories.
Lacking any other explanation, Kellar and most subsequent researchers have concluded the walls must have been used for ceremonial purposes. This is, likely, as close as we will ever come to the truth about the Mount Carbon walls. State archaeologists wrote to the Hawks Nest Mining Company, which had the property at the time, asking that the walls be protected.
The company agreed. But workers—who were under the false impression the walls were tall, conspicuous structures instead of loose piles of stone—ended up bulldozing them anyway. But not all was lost.
Both men had been part of a similar, unsuccessful expedition a few weeks earlier with other WVAS members. But then Thomas found a different map of the area and decided to try again. He invited Martin, who quickly agreed. The duo looked for remains of Wall 1 but never found anything.
Since this structure ran parallel with the ridge, Martin figures the rocks probably washed down the hillside over time.
But after some searching, they came across the remains of Wall 2. The bulldozers that carved the access road had bisected the structure where it crossed the ridge, but the sections trailing down the slopes on either side remained intact. Martin chronicled the event with a Hi8 camcorder.