Monday, July 18, 2011

New River Gorge National River, Sandstone Visitor Center

Sandstone. Sounds like a cowboy town. If you know geology, though, you know Sandstone is more likely to be in the eastern United States where sandstone is a big ingredient of the Appalachian Mountains.  The sandstone cliff shown in the photo at the right is typical of what we see along our many two-lane roads in West Virginia. The sandbars along our rivers are formed from ground sandstone. Many of our buildings built from cut sandstone.
This particular cliff is close to the town of Sandstone, West Virginia, a very very small town that sits between the railroad and the New River, not too far from the start of the New River Gorge.
This cliff is part of the Sandstone Visitor Center, part of the National Park Service.
There seems to be a trend in Visitor Centers - whether they are run by the National Parks, or more local entities - toward garden landscaping.  Last fall I showed you  a visitor center in Arkansas surrounded by a beautiful, diverse garden. click HERE to go to that  blog entry. Today's tour of the Sandstone Visitor Center is competitive with that one though on a much smaller scale.
All of the plants at the visitor center are native to this particular area of West Virginia. That includes Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) which is listed as native yet an invasive species by the United States Department of Agriculture. I suppose it fits the axiom, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." At the visitor center Trumpet creeper is a treasure.  A long arbor has been built covering one of the center pathways. Gnarled trunks wrap around arbor supports. Above the distinctive creamy orange "trumpets" provide a lush roof and ample shade as they spill over the sides of the arbor

A ranger inside told me that they have keep up with the trimming in order to keep the fast-growing vine from taking over.
Other native species, like the Liatris below line the walkways around the Visitor Center.

A path continues around the back of the visitor center where several species of native trees are planted.  This will become a nice shady area as the trees mature.  On the day we visited, it was too hot to enjoy the benches conveniently located around the garden.
Besides benches, there were several picnic tables scattered around, close to the parking lot making this a good lunch spot for travelers with a cooler.

Inside the visitor center it was all about the New River, its tributaries and surrounding watershed. From Newts to Native Americans to coal mining, information flowed from displays located around the building.  Much of it pertained to stewardship now and in the past. 

Throughout the building we could follow the path of the New River at our feet.  All of the rivers forming the New River Watershed were inlaid, in blue, into the floor. 

Interactive displays were there to teach children and adults how recycling, and good water use practices could help keep the watershed healthy and in turn keep our drinking water clean.
     If you have trouble reading these sandstone signs, please click on them to see them enlarged.

The photo, below, is from the  NATIONAL RIVER WEBSITE 
It shows the blue inlaid rivers that make up the New River watershed.
If you are traveling On I-64 be sure to stop. There is a movie about the New River that runs throughout the day. The Information Center is located just north of the I-64 and State Route 20 (Exit 139), between Beckley and Lewisburg, West Virginia.
Hip hip hooray! To our National Park Service for the New River Gorge National River, Sandstone Visitor Center.


Out on the prairie said...

A lovely area, I always stop to visit areas like this.

Linda said...

Nice post! West Virginia is a great place to visit.