The headwaters of the Bluestone River begin at an elevation of 3,500 feet on East River Mountain near Bluefield, Virginia, and flow for 77 miles to Bluestone Lake near Hinton, West Virginia. The Bluestone is a tributary of the New River, draining parts of southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia. The responsibility of protecting the Bluestone National Scenic River is shared between the National Park Service, West Virginia State Parks, and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. A section of Bluestone National Scenic River lies within the boundaries of Pipestem Resort State Park, and the remaining portion is also a West Virginia Wildlife Management Area. A major portion of the lands are managed by the state to provide hunting opportunities; wild turkey is the featured species.
October 26, 1988. From a point two miles upstream of the Summers and Mercer County lines down to Bluestone Lake.
Several plants have been found within the Bluestone Gorge that curiously do not seem to exist in the other major river gorges in the area (New, Meadow, and Gauley Rivers). These distinctive plants include northern white cedar, downy arrowwood, Allegheny cliff fern, and wild onion. An unusual mix of northern and southern species are present in the Bluestone Gorge. This may be primarily attributed to the northward direction of flow that allows the Bluestone River to create a corridor which allows for migration of southern species.
The Bluestone River is classified as a high-quality warmwater stream by the state of West Virginia. A good diversity of warmwater game fish are found with in the park, including smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, spotted bass, muskellunge, walleye, white bass, rock bass, crappie, several species of sunfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish. Non-game fish include suckers, dace, minnows, chubs, and shiners.
American Indians called the Bluestone River "Momongosenka" (Big Stone River), supposedly inspired by their travels along ancient pathways through the boulder-strewn lower gorge. Many native prehistoric sites—from nomadic Paleo-Indian hunting camps dating back to the times of Ice Age mammoth and mastodon, through hundreds of generations of village and burial sites of the Archaic and Woodland cultures, to the Delaware, Cherokee, and Shawnee tribes of the 1600 and 1700s—have been documented throughout the Bluestone River watershed.
The 10.5-mile section of the Bluestone River contained within the park runs through a deep, scenic gorge cut through the surrounding mountains. The rugged gorge offers many inspiring views. A diverse mix of Southern Appalachian forest types, from oaks and hickories on the ridgetops to birch and sycamores along the riverbanks, can be found along the river.
The Bluestone National Scenic River offers a wide variety of bird habitat along its 10.5 miles. Riparian areas, mixed hardwood forests, old fields, cliffs, and the river provide food, water, and shelter for an array of bird species. Belted kingfishers, great-blue herons, Louisiana waterthrushes, scarlet tanagers, and over a dozen species of wood warblers can be seen in spring and summer along the river, and it is not uncommon to see a bald eagle or an osprey. Bald eagles were once rare, but they have been seen recently in increasing numbers along the Bluestone and New Rivers. The Bluestone National Scenic River and the surrounding Bluestone Wildlife Management Area is one of the best wild turkey habitats in the east.