On the New River north of Hinton, West Virginia, Sandstone Falls is among the most visited natural landmarks in southern West Virginia. Also known as “The Great Falls of the New River,” it thunders over a sandstone shelf in a river-wide cataract more than 30 feet high at its highest. Near the eastern bank, the falls is powerful and dangerous year round, though near the western bank it divides into a series of tiers and cascades among which waders and swimmers often bathe in summer when the flow is less powerful.
Sandstone Falls Natural Area
The National Park Service has established observation areas and a boardwalk with wayside exhibits throughout the Sandstone Falls Natural Area. The wheelchair-accessible boardwalk guides visitors across a series of wooded islets to the highest part of the fall. The walk passes several smaller falls and pools along the gentler western area. Picnic tables and public toilets are located near falls parking area at the boardwalk entrance.
Sandstone Falls Ecology
The Sandstone Falls area is ecologically classified as an Appalachian flatrock ecosystem, defined principally by the environment that exists on sandstone flats, which extend above and below the falls. The edge of this sandstone creates the falls and is exposed among its islands and shoals. This ecosystem extends upstream for more than 12 miles. Its smooth top lies just below the surface during low water. Flatrock ecosystems share similar characteristics, chiefly a lack of soil. Frequent spring floods scour the sandstone, tearing at roots and carrying off what little soil is available. Only the hardiest plants survive.
From Interstate 64 exit 138 at Sandstone, WV, follow highway WV-20 south eleven miles through Hinton to River Road. Follow River Road (CR-26) 8.5 miles to the parking area. The falls may also be observed at a distance from an overlook along WV-20 just south of Sandstone.