How Did The New River Get Its Name?

Seriously, how could they name the second oldest river in the world “New” River? I mean, this is some of “America’s Best Whitewater.” Couldn’t they name it something more appropriate? How about “Big Water Canyon” or “Cataract Canyon?” Oh yeah, that one is already taken. It’s part of the ancient “Teays” river system, which would be a little better name. Or we could use the Shawnee name “Keninskeha” (you can read about that in my “Raft the Keninskeha” blog). So what if we can’t pronounce it?

In 1656, Abraham Woods saw the river and named it after himself (“Woods River” – thoughtful), thinking he was the first white man to see it. I’m sure that happened a lot through the years. There have been many theories as to how the New River got its inappropriate name.

The best one I have found and tend to believe is from 1641, 15 years before Woods “found” it. The first reference to the “new” river comes from a Virginia statue of the same year when Walter Austin, Rice Hoe, Joseph Johnson and Walter Chris wrote “discovery of a new river, south west of the Appomattox.” Early map makers probably referenced it as “New River” since no name was suggested and so it stuck. Thank goodness Rice didn’t name it after himself – “Hoe River”!

OK, since New River is totally unacceptable, what do you suggest? I’m thinking “Rick’s River.” What do you think? Hey, I have the first vote so don’t crinkle your nose at me.

And while you try to come up with a better suggestion, I’ll be on a Zip Line Canopy Tour soaking up the splendor.

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