For more than 20,000 years, people have visited the New River Gorge area. ACE Adventure Resort’s 1,500 acres is situated at a key, natural migratory route that was no doubt visited and used by these early people. Arrowheads and other evidence leave little doubt that even back then this area was popular.ACE’s Beach, our private river access on the New River, is located at the base of the gorge. It is the second largest beach in the entire gorge. Flat land has always been prime real estate in the mountains.
Located in the middle of a huge horseshoe bend in the river, where three major tributaries here funneled both wildlife and people down to the river, it has always been a crossing point. Also, with almost a mile of broken cliffs located high above the river and facing mainly to the east, these natural rock shelters would have been tempting living quarters.
Paleo-Indians (Paleo Period) were the first people to lay eyes on the New River sometime between 20,000 B.C and 6,000 B.C. They were nomadic big-game hunters who hunted woolly mammoth and buffalo. The “Buffalo Trail,” the first natural trail Europeans used to access this area (later known as the Midland Trail or Route 60 now), was created by large herds of buffalo that would take days to pass a single point. The last buffalo killed in this area was in 1815.
Archaic Indians (Archaic Period) arrived from 6,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C. These were hunter-gatherers who subsisted on buffalo, small game and food gathered from the primeval forests. They traveled in clans, staying in rock shelters and upland terrace camps. Late in this period the Adena people showed up from central Ohio.
From 1,000 B.C. to A.D. 750 (Woodland Period) the Woodland Indians stayed for longer periods, creating settlements, refining agriculture, and creating pottery, pipes and jewelry. This was the time of the rise of the Hopewell people who were known for their sophisticated trade network and earthen burial mounds. The Fort Ancient Indians came late in this period until the rise of the Mississippian Indians and their great cities. They had elaborate death rituals and were very spiritual.
The history of modern Native American Indians, the Delaware, Shawnee and Cherokee, is another blog.
But prehistoric people thrived in this area for 20,000 years and left little sign of their passing. Three examples within 20 miles (as the crow flies) of ACE Adventure Resort are the Beards Fork Petroglyphs, also known as the “Lettered Rocks” or “Chiseled Rocks,” which depict carvings of wild animals and other markings; the Robson Mound, an earthen mound 55 feet in diameter destroyed by early treasure hunters; and the Armstrong Mountain walled compound (I will talk about this incredible compound in my next blog).
The modern history of this area, when the European settlers first crossed the Allegheny Mountains a mere 250 years ago, is another great story left for another time. But if you happen to find any prehistoric arrowheads, pottery or anything else on the resort property please let us know so we can document it for the National Park Service.