New Gorge River National Park is located in the central part of southern West Virginia. The park covers an area of 9.375 square miles (24.28 sq km), which is only a portion of the larger 114.06 square miles (295.42 sq km).
The river was originally established as a national river in 1978 covering a distance of 53 miles (85 km). The designated river extended from Hinton down to Hawks Nest State Park. Only about 10% of the national river area is established as the national park boundaries.
The river is the foundation of the national park. It is the longest and deepest river gorge found within the Appalachian Mountains. The river gorge features several sandstone-shale boulders that are located throughout the terrain. Some reach over 1,000 feet (300 m) of exposed boulders. Plant and animal fossils can be seen in some of the boulders adding to the intrigue of the gorge.
The river displays a variety of riverine characteristics that include backwaters, cascades, chutes, glides, rapids, riffles, runs, shoals, torrents, and waterfalls. The ecosystem is diverse featuring types of forest, forest seeps, and wetlands.
The park features both natural and cultural significance. The Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Kay Moor reflect the nation’s coal mining history. There are a variety of historical ruins and architectural structures. It is a taste from life during the 18th and 19th centuries.
There are over 60 species of mammals calling the park area home. The Virginia big-eared and Indiana bats are two of the endangered species. There are at least 48 species of amphibians along with a variety of birds from bong birds to predators.Back to Top
The gorge and river terrain offers a variety of ways to engage both nature and culture. The river is recognized as one of the leading whitewater rafting destinations within the United States, particularly on the eastern side of the country. The rapids range from Class III up to Class V providing excitement for those who enjoy this adventurous activity.
Rock climbing amongst the canyon rock faces is one of the most popular activities of the park. There are over 1,400 recognized climbing routes.
The majority of rock climbs are one pitch. They vary in ascent traveling from 30 to 120 feet (9.1 to 36.6 m) in height. Most of these climbs are considered technical climbs for experienced climbers.
New River Gorge Bridge
The bridge extends across the gorge and over the river. It covers a distance of 1,700 feet (510 m) at a height of 876 feet (263 m) over the river. It is considered the world’s longest spanning steel arch bridge.Back to Top
New River Gorge Trails
The national park and immediate area provide over 50 miles (80 km) of hiking trails. The trails vary from easy to relatively difficult. Of course, rock-climbing is for the experienced. Some of the trails are accessible for bikers.
This is an easy rated trail that ascends 288 feet (87.78 m) while covering a distance of 2.3 miles (3.70 km). The trail following along the gorge and provides stunning views out over the gorge and river below. It meanders through forests with chances to see wildlife and wildflowers.
This is a short and easy trail with a minimal elevation gain that only travels a distance of 0.4 miles (0.64 km). The primary purpose to engage the trails is for views of the waterfall.
This is a short boardwalk trail covering a distance of 0.6 miles (0.96 km) with an elevation gain of only 88 feet (26.82 m). The boardwalk provides spectacular views over the river and gorge. The trail is rated easy and is family-friendly with parts of it being paved.
This is a challenging trail that has a steep incline of 869 feet (264.87 m) over a distance of 1.6 miles (2.57 km). There are several facets of nature to experience including a cave, a waterfall, wildflowers, and chances to see wildlife while making your way to the mining area. The trail is rocky with steep portions and is rated difficult.
New Gorge River National Park was first established as a national river to protect the unique and diverse terrain of the river gorge. There are 1,342 identified species of vegetation with over 50 of them recognized as rare.
The park also protects the habitat for 63 species of mammals and 48 species of amphibians, so of them are endemic with some being endangered.Back to Top
- All Trails, Best Trails in New River Gorge National River, West Virginia, https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/west-virginia/new-river-gorge-national-river, retrieved January 2021.
- Britannica, New River Gorge Bridge, https://www.britannica.com/topic/New-River-Gorge-Bridge, retrieved January 2021.
- National Parks Foundation, Wild, Wonder Waters, https://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/new-river-gorge-national-river, retrieved January 2021.
- National Park Service, New River Gorge, https://www.nps.gov/neri/index.htm, retrieved January 2021.
- Visit Southern West Virginia, New River Gorge National River, https://visitwv.com/npswv/new-river-gorge-national-river/, retrieved Janu; 2021.
- West Virginia Public Broadcasting, New River Gorge to Be Designated As A National Park, https://www.wvpublic.org/government/2020-12-22/new-river-gorge-to-be-designated-as-a-national-park, retrieved January 2021.