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Marshall’s Pillars


The prominent cliffs capping the New River Gorge near Ansted, now known as Hawks Nest, were originally named Marshall’s Pillars in honor of then Chief Justice John Marshall’s surveying expedition in 1812. These cliffs are formed from the Nuttall Sandstone, dating from the Early Pennsylvanian Epoch.

The Nuttall Sandstone is a silica cemented quartz arenite. The erosion resistant Nuttall stone forms the lip of the New River Gorge for many miles upriver from Hawks Nest and forms the large plateau from Oak Hill northward to Summersville. The cliffs around Summersville Lake and along the Meadow River canyon are also formed from the Nuttall Sandstone, as are the rock ledges forming Kanawha Falls.

As at many promontories, there is a legend at Hawks Nest of Indian lovers plunging to their death when forbidden to marry by their hostile tribes. In 1873, the eastern and western sections of the Chesapeake & Ohio main line were joined near Hawks Nest. Today the cliffs are the namesake for Hawks Nest State Park, overlooking a small lake on New River.

Written by Bascombe M. Blake Jr.