New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Nears First Anniversary Since Park Designation; Here’s What to Know

New River Gorge National Park and Reserve. Photo courtesy of Adventures on the Gorge.

FAYETTEVILLE, W. Va., November 22, 2021 – Southern West Virginia’s New River Gorge National Park and Preserve will mark its first anniversary as a national park in late December. Easily drivable from an array of Mid-Atlantic, Midwestern and Southeastern cities, the popularity of the cherished Appalachian playground has skyrocketed since the much-anticipated designation.

Some 1.4 million visitors so far this year have hiked the stunning park’s trails, climbed its rocks, rafted its rapids, photographed its sunsets and explored its ghost towns. Not surprisingly, that’s a significant increase in visitation over the challenging year of 2020. It’s also a big jump in visitation over 2019, when a total of 1,198,721 visitors were recorded for the entire year.

The increase in visitors did not surprise Roger Wilson, CEO of Adventures on the Gorge, an adventure resort that borders the park boundaries and features the best views in the region of the New River Gorge and New River Gorge Bridge. When the designation was announced last year, Wilson predicted a significant increase in visitation to the region. “We have treasures here – natural, cultural and recreation-ready – that few other destinations can offer,” he said.

Named after one of the oldest rivers in the world, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is a multi-faceted destination, with abundant natural beauty, rich human history and a wide range of outdoor adventures. Beyond the park boundaries, there are a broad array of other enticing experiences, such as charming small towns, breweries, historic sites and art.

A Public-Private Initiative

Wilson was among the outdoor recreation business leaders who worked in tandem with legislators to develop the omnibus bill that included the national park designation. The initiative specifically protects hunting, fishing and trapping as well as supporting the dynamic outdoor recreation industry that supports some 91,000 jobs.

About the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

One of three national park units in the region – which also includes the Gauley River National Recreation Area and Bluestone National Scenic River – the New River Gorge was established as a National River in 1978. The park encompasses more than 70,000 acres of land along 53 miles of the New River from Bluestone Dam to Hawk’s Nest Lake. The rugged whitewater river flows northward through deep and spectacular canyons, and it is the deepest and longest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains.

The New River Gorge National Park & Preserve is within 500 miles of about 60 percent of the U.S. population. Two major interstates – I-77 and I-64 – cross through the heart of the region. The area is served by two regional airports – Raleigh County Memorial Airport in Beckley and Greenbrier Valley Airport in Lewisburg as well as Amtrak train stations and Yeager Airport in Charleston.

For centuries, much of the rugged river was not easily accessible to humans, but that changed dramatically in 1873 when the railroad opened up the isolated area, making it possible to transport coal to the outside world. Mining boom towns such as Thurmond emerged seemingly overnight. Some of those long-abandoned towns are now preserved by the National Park Service. The region is also home to more than 1,400 plant species and diverse species of wildlife and neotropical birds.

The human history of the region is equally colorful. For example, Mother Jones, the famous union leader and advocate for workers’ rights, trekked from coal camp to coal camp as a delegate for the United Mine Workers of America. And in 1755, Mary Draper Ingles endured and survived captivity by the Shawnee nation of Ohio and eventually made her way back to the New River after a harrowing escape.

The Canyon Rim Visitor Center located approximately two miles from Adventures on the Gorge showcases the history, culture and natural bounties of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve as well as the Gauley River National Recreation Area and Bluestone National Scenic River.

What to do in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

There’s a seemingly endless list of ways to enjoy human-powered slow travel experiences included guided rafting on both the New and Gauley Rivers as well as rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, ziplining and stand up paddle boarding.

The National Park Service website lists a variety of tips for planning a visit including information about visitor centersmaps and scenic drives. There is also information about the history of the region and nature and science.

Book 2022 trips now

Adventures on the Gorge has several options for vacation planners.

The resort features a variety of lodging options including cabins, campsites, glamping tents, RV sites and Airstreams. There are also adventure packages such as Explore the Gorge, which includes adventures, lodging and meals for vacations ranging in length from two to five days.

For more information, visit the website or connect with the resort on FacebookTwitterInstagram, Travelers can find out more about Adventures on the Gorge online, by calling 1-855-379-8738, or connecting on FacebookTwitterInstagramGoogle+TripAdvisorYouTube, and Vimeo and signing up for AOTG e-newsletter.


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