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New River

by Jay Mazzocchi, 2006

New River in western North Carolina is formed by the convergence of two smaller rivers, the North Fork New River (43 miles long) and the South Fork New River (72 miles long), which flow out of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Watauga and Ashe Counties. It flows north from the Ashe-Alleghany County line into Virginia and West Virginia, entering the Kanawha River at Charleston, W.Va. The New River is unique among North Carolina rivers for several reasons. It is believed to be the only major river in the United States to flow north. In addition, and in contradiction to its name—the result of its discovery in 1749 in ‘‘new’’ sections of North Carolina and Virginia—the New River is one of North America’s oldest rivers, created between 10 million and 360 million years ago. Some geologists believe the New to be the second-oldest river in the world, behind the Nile River in Egypt.

The New River is one of the state’s least-industrialized rivers, populated by relatively small towns and flowing practically untouched through many miles of bucolic highland terrain. In 1976, 26 miles of the South Fork New River was declared a National Scenic River by the federal government, and the following year the state of North Carolina established the New River State Park in an effort to protect the river’s natural beauty and resources. The New was named an American Heritage River in 1998. Conservation groups, including the National Committee for the New River, continue to work to protect the river from possibly harmful development projects and to improve the environment of its more than 765 squares miles of watershed in the state.


John Manuel, "New River Rhythm," Wildlife in North Carolina 63 (November 1999).





That is not the only river in the United States to flow north. The Monongahela river in West Virginia and Pennsylvania flows north.


Is there not a New River also in Jacksonville, NC?



Great question! Yes there is, but this article is specifically about the one in Western NC. Here is some information on the Civil War battle that took place in Onslow County area and Jacksonville on the New River in the southeastern NC.

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library. 


Is the French Broad considered a major river? Does it not flow north? It sure appears to.



Here is an article on the French Broad. River

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


False! There are several other known and larger rivers that flow north, in the United States. One example is the Red River of the North (338 miles) that forms the majority of the border between North Dakota and Minnesota, flowing from the U.S. into Canada.

The reference cited in this article is clearly not factual and brings into question the credibility of this website.

Other "major" rivers that flow north: Bighorn (185 miles; Wyoming to Montana), Deschutes River (252 miles; Oregon to Washington), St. Johns River (310 miles; the longest river in Florida).


It is my understanding, along with visual evidence, that the French Broad River flows North. Is it not a major river?


The Shenandoah River, in Virginia, is also a north-flowing river!


Monongahela River, from it's confluence of West Fork and Tygert Valley rivers at Fairmont, WV, also flows north to Pittsburgh, to join the Allegheny River and form the Ohio River


Actually the New River converges with the Gauley River at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia and becomes the Kanawha River

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