Local aquatic-activity hotspot New River Junction (NRJ) locked up its shuttles and tubes for the year last weekend following a summer of unpredictable weather. Above-average amounts of rain led to unusually high river levels, causing NRJ to close on multiple occasions for the safety of visitors.
“Since our stretch of river includes the largest set of rapids on the New (River) in the state of Virginia, we need to closely monitor levels for safety purposes,” said Bernadette Mondy, an associate director in the Environmental Health and Safety department at Virginia Tech. Mondy’s family has owned NRJ for the past 31 years. “If we feel the river is dangerous, we won’t open.”
This summer, river heights were unexpectedly high due in part to the above-average precipitation levels. According to climate data from the National Weather Service, June and July saw levels that were 3.94 and 3.52 inches higher than usual, respectively.
Aside from tubing, Mondy notes that camping, another service offered by NRJ, was also affected by the unusual weather.
“We are a destination campground and many of our campers come for the tubing and fishing,” Mondy said. “Lots of folks made alternative vacation arrangements since there was so much uncertainty around the river levels.”
Safety is the number one priority for New River Junction, and it’s warranted. A flood of river rescue calls are answered every year in all parts of the United States, and sometimes the accessibility of information pertaining to the status of the river can mean life and death.
“In the past, when there were beautiful days but high river levels, we had no way of getting the word out and people flocked to the river,” Mondy said. “Even if we were closed and explained to people why, since they had driven down, they often got in the river below our property and got themselves in trouble.”
In 2009 New River Junction created a Facebook page that has garnered over 5,000 ‘likes’ as of this month. A quick look through the post history shows an increased interaction with potential customers over time, showing the effectiveness that a tool like social media can provide.
“This year social media was a life saver, possibly literally,” Mondy said. “The message got out and folks paid attention. It made for a very safe summer considering the conditions.”