Nature January 06, 2021
West Virginia’s New River Gorge Joins The Ranks As America’s Newest National Park
West Virginia’s New River Gorge has long been a favorite sight for locals and tourists alike, and it’s garnered national attention many times before, including its designation as a National River in the 1970s. But in the final days of 2020, it leveled up, joining the ranks
as America’s newest National Park : the nation’s 63rd and West Virginia’s first.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
In a bipartisan move supported by both West Virginia U.S. senators, legislation passed in December of 2020 included the decision to re-designate the New River Gorge from a National River to a National Park and Preserve.
This move was greeted with mixed emotions from West Virginians, who love the state's status as an undiscovered gem and the freedom and privacy associated with it, but also recognize the much needed economic benefit this change will bring in the form of government funding and increased tourism.
Any discussion of the gorge as a tourist attraction must start here, at the bridge. The New River Gorge Bridge is the longest single-span arched bridge in the nation, and it's definitely the face of the New River Gorge.
You can see this iconic arched bridge from various vantage points, but one of the most popular is the Canyon Rim Visitors Center Overlook. Views are free, but be prepared to climb some stairs!
You can also tour a small history museum and purchase tickets at the visitors center to take an unforgettable journey under the bridge via the breathtaking New River Gorge bridge walk.
Another spot not to miss in the re-designated park is the wide Sandstone Falls outside of Hinton.
For a glimpse into the coal history that can't be separated from a true experience of the New River Gorge, visit the nearly abandoned coal town of Thurmond, which you can access either by car or by train.
And if your not tired of the view yet (trust us, you won't be), swing over to Grandview Overlook near Beckley to feast your eyes on more of the scenery.
The New River National Park and Preserve is the first addition to the National Park system since 2018, and it is the only Park and Preserve combination in the contiguous United States (there are 4 others in Alaska).
The National Park portion will include approximately 7,021 acres encompassing the Lower Gorge, Thurmond, Grandview, and Sandstone Falls. The Preserve will cover 65,165 additional acres of the rugged canyon, allowing for backcountry hunting.
What do you think of the New River Gorge being upgraded to a National Park? Will you be visiting the gorge anytime soon?
If you’d like to explore the New River Gorge even more, try hiking the
Endless Wall Trail or explore the ruins of Nuttallburg. Address: New River, United States