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Our 10 Favorite Books About the New River Gorge

May 18, 2024

When we aren’t hiking in the New River Gorge, we are usually reading about it. Understanding this area – both the natural and human history – is our passion, but we also see it as our job. We own Lafayette Flats Boutique Vacation Rentals in Fayetteville, WV and feel an obligation to educate our guests on the uniqueness of this special place. Here are our 10 favorite books about the New River Gorge.

A white book entitled, "Far Appalachia" and a green book entitled, "Follow the River" sitting on a bookshelf.

Far Appalachia: Following the New River North

by Noah Adams

This book, published in 2002, recounts the author’s canoe trip from the source of the New River to its confluence with the Gauley River. The entire book is a lovely read, but we love the portions about the New River Gorge, especially the chapter about Fayetteville which contains one of our favorite quotes: “A lot of people who come to Fayetteville spend time trying to figure out how to stay.”

Follow the River

by James Alexander Thom

A novel based on a true occurrence, this book tells the amazing story of Mary Draper Ingles and her escape from captivity in 1755. Much of her journey home traversed the New River Gorge, and the author did great research and describes the landscape that Mary encountered with stunning detail. A National Bestseller in 2010, it is a must read for anyone interested in the history of the American frontier.

A white paperback book entitled, "It is This Way With Men Who Fly" and a blue paperback book entitled, "New River Rock" sitting on Lafayette Flats' bookshelf.

It Is This Way With Men Who Fly

by Frank Thomas

“Five Dollar Frank” Thomas was a local pilot and celebrity who for many years gave $5 sightseeing rides over the New River Gorge Bridge in his beat-up old Cessna. His book recounts how he built his own airstrip and used his love of flying to create a tourism business, and he spends many pages explaining how pilots of his generation were cut from different cloth. Philosophical, quirky and witty, this book is a fun read. No longer in print, it can be found at the Fayette County Public library, and used copies pop up for sale at various places around Fayetteville from time to time.

New River Rock: Rock Climbs in West Virginia’s New River Gorge

by Rick Thompson

While we’re not rock climbers, we do appreciate what the climbing community adds to the life and culture of the New River Gorge. This book, first published in 1987, brought the NRG’s excellent climbing opportunities to the attention of a wide audience, and helped to spur tourism in the New River Gorge. While a bit out of date for serious climbers, it contains great descriptions of areas of the gorge that are not as familiar to casual hikers and has helped us find some out of the way spots that we love. For more up-to-date climbing beta, we recommend a newer publication with the same title by Fayetteville local, Mike Williams.

Two paperback books on a shelf: "Hawk's Nest" by Hubert Skidmore and "Witness at Hawks Nest: A Novel" by Dwight Harshbarger. Both have black and white photo of a tunnel under construction on the cover.

Hawks Nest by Hubert Skidmore

Witness at Hawks Nest by Dwight Harshbarger

Our list includes two fictionalized accounts of one of America’s greatest industrial disasters, the Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster in which hundreds or thousands of men were sickened and died as a result of silicosis they contracted while digging the tunnel under unsafe conditions.

Two books about the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster? Yes, because they are both excellent and complement each other. Published nearly 70 years apart, both books contain details and descriptions of real-life events that can be corroborated with historical documents but allow the tragic story to unfold in a far more human way than more scholarly works allow.

The books, "Trees Above with Coal Below" and "Hiking and Biking in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve."

Trees Above With Coal Below

by John Nuttall

This book was out of print for a long time, but we were pleased to find a new edition recently on the shelves of the recently remodeled Canyon Rim Visitors Center. It is the story of the development of the coal industry in the New River Gorge, mostly centered on Nuttallburg, but also has some wonderful stories about the early predevelopment days of Fayette County. Nuttall was a self-taught botanist, and as naturalists we love his descriptions of the flora and fauna he encountered in the gorge.

Hiking and Biking in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

by R. Bryan Simon

The New River Gorge book that we read the most, this guide has been the inspiration for countless hikes and excursions we have taken over the years. A copy is in each flat for our guests to use, and we recommend it to everyone who wants to know where to hike. Written by a Fayetteville resident who knows the trails like no one else.

The books, "West Virginia Waterfalls: The New River Gorge" and "Creating Lafayette Flats."

West Virginia Waterfalls: The New River Gorge

by Ed Rehbein and Randall Sanger

This photo book is the definitive guide to the dozens of waterfalls that are spread throughout the New River Gorge. Not only does it contain gorgeous photos, but it also includes directions to each of the falls and has a removable guide with GPS coordinates. Courtesy of Randall Sanger, a copy of this book awaits our guests in each flat.

Creating Lafayette Flats

by Shawn Means

OK, we’re a little biased, but we think Shawn’s recent book about how we found, bought, and renovated the building that is now Lafayette Flats is a pretty good read, and it contains some interesting stories from Fayetteville’s past.

Private and Public Tours Available - New River Gorge Eco Tours: Nature-focused Guided Forest Walks in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.

Craving more data for your New River Gorge exploration? Read “Hiking Through History in the New River Gorge” and “New River Gorge Coal Mining Culture & History.”

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Fayetteville, WV 25840
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