The New River Junction can be crucial to the experience of spending a summer in Blacksburg. However, due to high water levels this year, local residents have had to do without.
“It’s Sunday, July 21st and we are still closed for tubing,” said a recent status update on the New River Junction Facebook page. “Wish we had a little more control over Mother Nature... Stay safe and we hope to see you soon.”
Management has had no choice but to stay closed for most of the summer for safety reasons.
“When we have a good day, we’ve been known to run out of tubes,” said Karrie Quesenberry, manager of the New River Junction. “(But) if it’s too high, it’s just not safe to let people in the water.”
One of the New River’s quirks is that it flows northward into Virginia from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The weather conditions in that area therefore dictate the water level in the rest of river.
“We get all the rain from Boone, North Carolina to here because that’s where the river starts,” said Karrie Quesenberry, manager of the New River Junction. “It doesn’t matter if it rains here.”
According to Jake Mondy, an owner of New River Junction and son of the previous owner and operator David Mondy, the New River Junction has only deemed the water safe enough to open sixteen days all summer.
“We’ve had worse summers,” Mondy said. “We had a summer where we were only open for four days…when the river gets up, we don’t put people’s lives in danger by opening.”
Tubers and swimmers run great risk when the water is high. According to Mondy, when the water level is normal, visitors can usually stand straight up in the water and see the river’s bottom. If someone lost their shoes or tube, they would more than likely be able to get in the river and walk to retrieve them.
“When the water’s low, you can walk from here to the rapids,” Mondy said. “When the water is too high, anything can happen. People can’t see, can’t stand, can’t get ahold of their tubes (if they lose them).”
Mondy said that although no one has drowned on their watch, the water can pose a serious threat to tubers, especially poor swimmers. The staff at New River Junction hopes to resume business soon, but for now they say they prefer to err on the side of caution and prevent any potential fatalities.