Whiteoak Canyon bridge severely damaged, new bridge to be built

The bridge at the Whiteoak Canyon parking area, which was severely damaged during recent heavy rains and flooding, remains closed.

Vehicles are not able to cross the bridge, thus parking is restricted to the lower lot and is extremely limited. It is reduced to one third of its normal capacity. The National Park Service is asking the public to access the Whiteoak Canyon area trails from Skyline Drive instead. The two parking areas on Skyline Drive are the Whiteoak Canyon Trail parking area at mile 42.6 and the Hawksbill Gap parking area at mile 45.5.

Through the cooperation with the landowner and the support of the Piedmont Environmental Council and Trout Unlimited, a new bridge is planned for construction to be completed in 2019.

“Please be patient with this situation as we wait for the new bridge to be built. During our peak visitation in the fall, we invite visitors to explore other waterfall options,” says the Park Service.

Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jennifer Flynn stated, “We are grateful that our partners, the Piedmont Environmental Council and Trout Unlimited, are working closely with the property owner, Jimmy Graves of Graves Mountain Lodge, to build a new trout-friendly bridge. This new bridge will have the capability for fish to pass underneath which will improve the habitat for fish and provide excellent visitor access to the Whiteoak Canyon trails.”

Seth Coffman, Trout Unlimited’s coordinator for the Shenandoah Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative, said: “The existing crossing is undersized and reaching the end of its useful life. The new structure will allow native brook trout to access over 3 miles of critical habitat in the park, have a greater capacity to handle flows associated with storm events, and provide more reliable access to the park for visitors to the White Oak Canyon trails.”

Peter Hujik, PEC field representative in Madison County, added: “Road crossings that fish typically have trouble navigating are often the hardest hit by high flows from storm events, which is what we saw at the White Oak Canyon crossing.

“It’s fortunate that Trout Unlimited already had this project in development prior to this year’s damaging rains, and together we’ve been able to secure most of the funding needed to complete the project next spring. The effort will help to reconnect 3 miles of stream habitat for brook trout and provide reliable access for park patrons.”

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