“The flowing waters of this ancient river provide solace to all those who seek her calming presence amongst the woods of West Virginia. Come for adventure, leave feeling renewed and forever changed.”
This welcome message from the newest natural attraction West Virginia has to offer, New River Gorge Natural Park and Preserve, greets the would-be adventurer with both a boast of its beauty and an invitation to soak up its natural, humbling, and soothing setting.
A quick glance at the majestic splendor New River Gorge has to offer will surely send that same would-be adventurer scrambling to pack a bag, lace up their favorite hiking boots and head straight for the whitewater weaving through the canyons of the West Virginia wilderness. This is the same whitewater that over millennia carved the deepest and longest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountain Range.
Inviting and majestic, New River Gorge provides awe-inspiring scenery and diverse wildlife.
The National Parks Service official website describes the New River wilderness thusly:
“The Appalachian Mountain forests are some of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems in the world. Located in southern West Virginia, the New River has sliced its way through the mountains, creating a mosaic of habitats: unfragmented forest, cliff and rimrock habitats, forest seeps and wetlands, and mature bottomland forests. These habitats provide a refuge for endangered mammals, rare birds, and amphibians, including the endangered Virginia big-eared bat, the Indiana bat, and the Allegheny woodrat, a species of special concern in West Virginia that is in decline throughout the eastern United States. Additionally, the waters of the New River system contain a mosaic of hydrologic features and aquatic habitats that support a highly productive aquatic ecosystem that includes distinct populations of native fish, mussels, crayfish, and a broad array of other aquatic life, including rare amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.”
New River Gorge National Park & Preserve conserves over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, one of the oldest rivers in America, between the towns of Hinton and Fayetteville, West Virginia. The park and surrounding area are rich in cultural and natural history, with an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities, including hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, nature walks, camping – and renting a private island with accommodations for 10 for about $330 a night – among many other activities.
One could be forgiven for not being familiar with this area of West Virginia’s National Parks.
New River Gorge has long been a recreational hotspot, but it took a bill aimed at relief for American’s economic suffering during the Covid-19 pandemic to get the park full National River and Preserve status.
Tucked amid thousands of pages of legislation was language conferring this status on one of West Virginia’s native gems, a fact that nature lovers state and nationwide will celebrate as a small victory in a hard year.
One could and should be tempted to take advantage of New River Gorge’s relative anonymity while it lasts because once the secret is out, the attraction will become a must-visit destination for wild hearts of every stripe.