This summer, Americans will visit some of the most popular US National Parks. Earlier this year, a new National Park had been designated. This new park has joined the elite list of the other 62 official United States National Parks. America’s newest national park is New River Gorge National Park and Reserve.
America’s 63rd National Park, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, is located in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. The New River was first designated as a National River in 1978. In January 2021, Congress redesignated the New River and the surrounding area’s 70, 000 acres as a national park.
History of the Region
Thurmond, West Virginia began as a mining settlement and lumber industry town. Mining town supplied coal and lumber that helped establish American industry. You can see the history of the town and how the people lived there in the late 18th century on a visit to Nattalburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District. Neighboring Kay Moor is the site of an abandoned coal mine and processing plant and has many historic structures from that time period.
The region was fully established in 1873 to the outside world with the railroad. The town of Thurmond and neighboring towns developed around this railroad. In the park, visitors can see some of the remnants of the region’s railroad history such as old depots, rail yards and railroad equipment.
What To Do at New River Gorge
New River Gorge has many recreational activities for guests to enjoy. For adventurous travelers, you could spend a day whitewater rafting on the powerful currents of the rapids. Excursions for rafting are offered April through October by professional guides.
The numerous other recreational activities available in the park include fishing, biking, hunting, canoeing and birding. If rock climbing is your passion, the park has over 1,400 areas to climb, which has made it a popular rock climbing destination.
New River Gorge has over 50 miles of hiking trails inside the park. Guests can choose to hike to Diamond Point, Long Point and Turkey Spur, or tackle the 2.4 mile Endless Wall Trail. Guests can also visit Canyon Rim Visitor Center and walk on the boardwalk to see the New River Gorge Bridge and see the views at Main Overlook at Grandview.
New River Gorge National Park and Reserve also has a few spectacular scenic drives. The 83 mile route of the New River Gorge Scenic Drive is the perfect place to view the gorge and river. The African American Heritage Auto Tour will take you to 17 different historical sites of where African American coal miners and railroad workers worked and lived. The tour is presented on a smart phone app and tells the stories of the African American experience in this region.
Lodging Options at New River Gorge
There are many lodging options available at New River Gorge and the surrounding area. Camping is available in the park on a first come, first serve basis. There are no fees for camping, but stays are limited to 14 days total in the same area. The camping areas in the park have limited facilities including drinking water hookups and restrooms. The surrounding area has a number of private campgrounds and state parks with modern camping facilities.
For more traditional lodging, there are a number of choices available near New River Gorge. There are bed and breakfasts, cabins and motels in the area. Cabins are available for rent at Pipestem Resort State Parks and Hawks Nest. The Southern West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau has a listing of hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts in the area.
New River Gorge Information and Operating Hours
New River Gorge has four Visitor Centers with varying operating hours. Canyon Rim is open daily year round, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The bookstore operates Thursdays to Mondays from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Sandstone Visitor Center is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM from May through October. The Thurmond Depot Visitor Center is open from June through August from 10 AM to 5 PM. The Grandview Visitor Center is open Memorial Day through Labor Day from 12 PM to 5 PM.
New River Gorge is open daily year round from 9 AM to 5 PM. There is no admission fee. Permits are required for any events that guests would like to host in the park.
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