The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Nuttall Sandstone

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Nuttall Sandstone cliffs near New River Gorge Bridge
Nuttall Sandstone rims New River Gorge at Beauty Mountain

The Nuttall Sandstone forms great cliffs in the northern New River Gorge region of Fayette County and the Summersville Lake region of Nicholas County. Thousands of tourists visit annually to view the gorge from its many overlooks, and thousands of rock climbers scale the Nuttall every year: the cliffs are at the center of one of the most popular climbing areas in the eastern United States and are protected as part of the New River Gorge National River. A massive and highly resistant sandstone, it underlies the broad tablelands above and beyond the region's older rivers and streams.

The Nuttall is divided into upper and lower layers, or ledges. The lower forms the cliffs along the rim of the New River Gorge near the New River Gorge Bridge and to the southeast at the Endless Wall and Beauty Mountain climbing-access areas. Downstream, to the northwest, its upper and lower ledges coalesce into one cliff from 175- to 200-feet thick, centerpiece of Hawks Nest State Park. The lower ledge descends briefly below the level of the Kanawha River to form the Kanawha Falls, 10 miles west of the gorge. Its surface is exposed near Lookout, WV, in the form of downs and low natural bridges. It outcrops along the rim of the upper valley of Keeney's Creek as Spy Rock, near Lookout, WV, and has been weathered into Cup-and-Saucer Rocks, near Winona, WV.

Nuttall Sandstone underlies tableland near Edmond, WV

The Nuttall Sandstone is geologically divided into two massive beds, both 75-to-100-feet thick and generally divided by five-to-ten feet of dark, sandy shale and sometimes a thin bed of coal. Both beds form sheer, nearly vertical cliffs in the gorges of the New, Gauley, and Meadow Rivers, where the lower bed is a more prominent cliff-maker. The Upper Nuttall Sandstone has been quarried, and notably used in construction of the Fayette County Jail and Fayette County National Bank, in Fayetteville, WV.

Upper Nuttall Sandstone

The upper sandstone member has been described by the West Virginia Geological Survey as 40-to-100 feet thick and "heavy- to current-bedded, grayish-white, reddish-grey to brown, seldom pebbly,... and 5-to-15 feet above the more prominent cliff-maker -- the Lower Nuttall ledge." The eroded upper surface of the upper member is exposed in pastures along U.S. Route 60 just northwest of Lookout.

Lower Nuttall Sandstone

The lower sandstone member has been described by the West Virginia Geologic as 75-to-110 feet thick and "usually massive- to current-bedded, medium- to coarse-grained, highly siliceous, pebbly to conglomeratic." The lower ledge of Nuttall sandstone is very like the upper ledge of the nearby Raleigh Sandstone to the south -- counterpart of the Nuttall in the southern gorge, forming similar tablelands and cliffs along the canyon's rim, particularly near Grandview.