The New River seems to always find a way to remind me of how closely human and natural history reside here. One night I clean four smallmouth bass at the river’s edge as a thin fog settles on the water. The mountains go dark, unmarred by a single light upstream or down, and in another place, at another time, I would have savored the wild, undeveloped nature of such a scene. Instead, a train whistles and I see the pinprick of light from the locomotive far downstream. It brings to mind something I’d seen earlier along the river. We’d floated and fished for mile after mile under soaring palisades of unbroken green nothingness, when my eye caught an old coal tipple rising above the trees. Back in the day, nearly every New River creek holler had a coal mine; more than 50 little coal camps and towns lined the river. I put down my fishing rod and watched the tall tipple slip out of sight behind the green curtain, behind another mountain ridge. This place was once, and not so long ago, an industrialized corridor, chock full of boarding houses and bars, boom towns, coal mines, and coke ovens. That it now claims status as one of the East’s wildest places gives me hope that it’s never too late to plan for the wild places of tomorrow.