In December 2020, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve was designated the United States’ newest national park. But this scenic wonderland is anything but new.
More than 70,000 acres of parkland stretch along about 53 miles of the New River in southern West Virginia. The white-water river took its time carving out the gorge. Geologists estimate that the steady, gradual erosion lasted anywhere from 3 million to 320 million years and continues today.
A great spot to survey nature’s handiwork is from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. From its overlook, view the steep canyon walls and lush vegetation. Then, go explore!
White-water rafters relish the challenging rapids in the Lower Gorge area, which range from Class III to Class V in difficulty; commercial outfitters lead trips through there from April to October. The upper part of the river attracts canoers and rafters who prefer slower-churning water. The park also accommodates boating and fishing. Experience firsthand the deepest, longest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains.
And there’s much more to do on land: hiking and biking; climbing sandstone cliffs; bird-watching (be on the lookout for bald eagles and peregrine falcons). Set out on an auto tour, searching for buildings and historic remnants that recall the area’s coal mining, railroad, and agricultural activity. Anywhere you go, drink in the beauty.
Primitive, no-hookup camping is available within the park on a first-come, first-served basis. State parks and private campgrounds throughout the area offer developed facilities and make great base camps.