Monday, August 15, 2016

New River Campground - Gauley Bridge, West Virginia

The second stop on our Region Three Caravan to the WBCCI International Rally in Lewisburg, West Virginia, was the New River Campground near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. This is a nice little "mom and pop" campground along the New River.

Gauley Bridge, WV

We were able to get a prime site right on the river. Our view included a family of ducks who enjoyed swimming in the area behind Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer. We also enjoyed watching some members of our caravan group kayak on the river.

Rosie's site along the New River in West Virginia
Some of our WBCCI Region Three Caravan group at New River
Campground as we head to the International Rally in Lewisburg, WV

There were several excursions planned while we were on this leg of the caravan. The first was a tour of the Blenco Glass Company in Milton, West Virginia. I quickly saw why everyone was excited about this tour.

Blenco states their products are handcrafted. They are! We watched craftsmen gather the hot glass then work it in the furnace. The glob of hot glass was given over to the glassblower, who created his beautiful glassware. That was then given to a finisher who cleaned up any imperfections and moved the product to a cooling conveyer. We were fascinated watching this process.

Blenco Glass Display
Glass creations start when a "glob" of glass is gathered in the furnace

Glass blower at work
Gathering glass from the furnace

Using a glass mold

Glass removed from the mold
Transferring the glass to the finisher
Finisher moving another product to the cooling belt

People watching glass creations being made

Day two was a free day allowing the caravan members to explore the area on their own. We elected to go to a grist mill that the West Virginia State Park system claims is one of the most photographed attractions in the state. While we are not sure how accurate that statement is, we thought the grist mill, the stream and the waterfalls were wonderful and we took many photos of each.

Grist Mill at Babcock State Park in West Virginia
The grist mill
Back at the campground before our third day started

Day three started with everyone gathering at a state park about 12 miles away through the mountains for tram and jet boat rides. Our group made it to the park in time, but nether the tram nor the jet boats were running because of the rains and lightening in the area. The revised plan was to travel into town for lunch then reconvene for the tour later that afternoon.

We received a text message saying the boat ride was cancelled, but we missed the more important message saying to return immediately to the campground. So, we went to the grocery to restock on a few items.

The mountain road back to the campground was the first sign that things were getting much worse. Fast flowing streams of water and debris were falling on the road from the wall of rocks lining the road. We also noticed that the gentle mountain streams we saw yesterday were now raging torrents of angry water. We also saw water starting to flow over some bridges on our road.

First signs of the flood

Water pouring over the mountain road

We took pictures of a lazy waterfall less than a quarter mile away from the campground earlier in the week. Things were much different today as it was a huge avalanche of fast-flowing water flying over the rocks. Very scary and very dangerous!

Waterfall near our campground the day before the flood
24 hours later!

That paled in comparison to our first glimpse of the campground. A chain was across the entrance because it was washed out from the rising waters. The river was rapidly rising and everyone was hooking up as quickly as possible to escape the flood. It appeared that someone gave the "abandon ship" order and the forced evacuation of the campground was in full swing.

The campground as it starts to flood

The park attendant told us how to find the back exit to the park. That was something we had not noticed until then and it was nothing more than a poorly maintained dirt path, but it was good enough. We were able to reach Rosie and completed the fastest hook-up in our history. As the rains continued to pour, we were mindful of the rising river and the increasing flow of water coming from the mountains.

Flood waters around Rosie
The fire pit behind Rosie is now part of the river

Once we hooked up Rosie and threw our power and water cords in the back of the truck, we were ready to leave. We were grateful our truck pulled Rosie out of our camping site as the river had risen to reach Rosie's tires. The condition of the rear exit was rapidly deteriorating from the rain and the other RV units evacuating the park, but we made it to the road and were out of the park.

The hastily created plan was that the caravan would move to Babcock State Park, which was about 18 miles away. We were one of the last six Airstream trailers to leave the park and that turned out to be a fortunate thing. More about that later.

We were traveling with one other Airstream trailer through a heavy downpour and hail. Becky noticed that Google Maps was showing the little mountain road ahead of us as red and at a complete standstill. We found an abandoned storefront and pulled over. A few minutes later, three more Airstream trailers pulled in behind us. One in our group was able to communicate with the Airstreamers ahead and confirmed that the road was underwater and they were having to back their trailers up about half a mile along mountain roads to reach a place they could turn around.

Pulled over during the hail storm

We were able to plot a new course to a Lowes store where the manager allowed our group of refugees to camp in the parking lot that night. We were high and dry, but that is the subject for another posting.
Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • Our site also had water and sewer connections.
  • Our site was backed up to the New River.
  • The campground had very nice showers and restrooms.
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G signal over the campground for both voice and data.
  • Some people in our group said they could receive one TV station. We couldn't see anything.
  • The campground offered a military and veterans discount, which was appreciated.
Sadly, this review is how the park was before the flood. The state opened the floodgates on the upstream dam about 30 minutes after we left and the park quickly filled with six to 10 feet of water. Chances are that it may take some time to bring the park back to life.

Original watercolor painting by Becky of the New River
behind Rosie

Original watercolor painting by Becky of the grist mill

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