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New River. New Park. New Inspiration.

When it comes to product design and color choice, Ruffwear’s Product Design & Development team looks to nature—to the wild places and landscapes that inspire and connect us.

The New River, which flows north from its headwaters near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, through southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia, provided the inspiration for one of our newest leash and collar patterns. Before its confluence with the Gauley River, at which point both rivers become the Kanawha River, the New flows through the New River Gorge.

The Gorge is not only an iconic rock climbing and whitewater destination, it’s home to our country’s newest national park: the New River Gorge National Park.

new river gorge vista

For Ruffwear's two resident Virginia Tech Hokies, these waters and the Gorge hold happy memories of outdoor adventures during college days in Blacksburg, Virginia. To celebrate one of our newest design patterns, we asked them to share a bit about what makes the New River special. 

Alli: Okay, I’m going to age myself by even asking this, but remind me which years you were at Tech? I was there from 2002 to 2006. 

Monica: Nice, a perfect 10! I was 2012-2016.

Alli: Neat. *awkwardly smiles*

group pic on the new river

Alli: Do you have a favorite memory that stands out from the New River during your time in Blacksburg?

Monica: It’s hard to pick just one! I loved floating the river the summer after I graduated. Most people had left town, but one of my best friends and I were sticking around for a bit to enjoy a Blacksburg summer.

One day, we were sitting in a coffee shop working on our portfolios and applying for jobs, and he randomly perked up and said “Hey Mon . . . kayaks for 40% off”. We jumped in the car and drove down the road, bought matching kayaks, and spent the rest of the summer shuttling different sections of the river. It was so much fun to see southwest Virginia in a new way. We found all sorts of cool side hikes, rope swings, and of course the occasional livestock. It was one of my favorite seasons of life.

kayaking new river gorge

Alli: Summers in Blacksburg are amazing! And I did something very similar after graduating. I bought a kayak after I moved back home to Pennsylvania and spent my law school years exploring the creeks and rivers I’d grown up around. Rivers are such a unique way to explore a landscape, eh? 

Monica: One of the best. 

Alli: When was the first time you visited the New River Gorge? Had you heard of it before going to college in Blacksburg?

Monica: I had heard about it and driven through it, but never spent much time down there! I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and the Gorge was a big destination for camping, climbing, and rafting, but I somehow never got down there for a trip. It wasn’t until going to college that I truly fell in love with the river. I went back to the Gorge proper in West Virginia with Columbus friends and family a couple times after I graduatedit’s actually where I learned to rock climb for the first time! What about you? What was your first experience with that area?

rock climbing new river gorge

Alli: After my sophomore year, I stayed in Blacksburg for the summer to live and work. A group of us pooled our funds together to go whitewater rafting for a day. Growing up, I was way into sports, but I hadn’t done a lot of outdoor activities like camping or rock climbing. And definitely not whitewater rafting. It felt very adventurous, and I had so much fun.

What I remember most was riding on the front of the raft through some of the rapids and going for a “swim” at least once. We ended up going back again the following year!

Alli: What made you decide to use the New River as design inspiration for this season? Did you know it was being considered for a new National Park designation or was that a total coincidence? 

flat out leash with new river pattern.

Monica: It was a total coincidencebut I was so excited when I heard about the new designation! Having spent so much time outdoors in Virginia, I am constantly thinking back to those experiences and drawing inspiration. The big inspiration behind the new design was actually one of my favorite spots from college. It was a quick drive and a short scramble that led to a bluff overlooking a horseshoe bend in the river. I would go out there for sunrise before classes sometimes to just drink my coffee and wait for the day to beginit is such a special place for me.

sunrise over new river gorge

Alli: Yes, I can totally relate. That entire region offers so much in terms of outdoor recreation and exploration.

Thanks for capturing this special river in your creative processI hope to see more designs inspired by these incredible places in the future!

Explore the New River pattern for the Flat Out™ Collar and Flat Out™ Leash.