Fun Facts About The New River
- The New River is 320 miles long. Only 53 miles of the river is within New River Gorge National Park.
- The New River flows south to north. Only a handful of rivers in the world due this including the Nile.
- It is estimated that the New River is about 360 million years old and is one of the oldest rivers in the world.
Fun Facts About New River Gorge Bridge
- The New River Gorge Bridge is 876 ft tall and 3,030 feet.
- It is the largest single span steel arch bridge in the United States and 5th largest in the World.
- It held the title as the largest single span steel arch bridge from 1977 to 2003 when Shanghais Lupa Bridge opened.
- The bridge took 3 years to build and cost $37 million dollars in 1970s
- The New River Gorge Bridge weighs 88 million pounds.
New River Gorge National Park Glen Jean Wv
Probably one of the top bucket list items for adventurers, photographers, RV travelers, and campers when visiting this area is the New River Gorge National Park. We were so excited to see her mountains, rivers, and valleys getting the recognition she deserves by becoming the newest US National Park at the end of 2020. In spite of its name, the New river that winds through the park is ancient and the mountains that make up the area are some of the oldest in the world.
There is some incredible geology and unusual plants and animals that you dont get to see anywhere else. The designation as the 63rd national park created a 7,021-acre area around the heart of the gorge, which is already developed with trailheads and a visitor center, while the remaining 65,165 acres remain designated as a national preserve to allow for backcountry hiking and hunting.
If you like heights take a guided tour under the New River Gorge bridge, yes, under the bridge! At 875 feet the bridge is almost 3 times the height of the Statue of Liberty. Prefer something more casual, stop into the Canyon Rim visitor center, pick up a map and CD and take the winding 8 mile self-guided driving tour on Fayette Station Road under the bridge and across the New River.
Distance to Popular Destination:
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Rafting At New River Gorge National Park
New River Gorge whitewater rafting is second to none, and is a premier destination for whitewater enthusiasts. Between April and October, local outfitters descend on the river to show off what this park has to offer, and the Class III-V rapids give guests all they can handle. Paddlers will find the lower section of the river challenging with fast water, strong currents, and plenty of obstacles to navigate through. If you love a good rafting trip, be sure to put the New River at the top of your list.
For calmer trips, the upper portions of the river offer a great experience for all skill levels. Canoe and kayaking trips are also available from here.
For more information on booking a trip on the river, check out this list of outfitters and resources on the New River Gorge whitewater page.
While it was too early in the season for us to raft during this visit, wed love to book a day on the river sometime.
Related: Looking for a unique whitewater experience? Check out Riversport OKC in Oklahoma City. Its great for families!
The Ultimate New River Gorge National Park Travel Guide
At the most recently declared national park, the adventure starts and ends with the 1,000-foot-deep New River Gorge. The 73,000-acre stretch of rugged canyon in West Virginia is home to Class IV+ whitewater rafting, some of the best rock climbing on the eastern seaboard, purpose-built singletrack, and more than 100 miles of hiking trails that capture this dramatic part of the country.
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I didnt think my kids would do it. I thought theyd get to the edge of the cliff, harness and helmet on, take a peek over the edge of a 1,000-foot-deep gorge, and back out of their first rappel. They were both only ten at the time I wouldnt have blamed them. So it was surreal for me to watch them lean back without a hint of hesitation and push themselves off. Naturally, I was worried something terrible would happenthe rope would fail or an anchor would loosenbut mostly I was just proud to watch them get so far out of their comfort zone.
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New River Gorge National Park And Preserve
Welcome to Americas 63rd national parkthe New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. Home to more than 70,000 acres of public lands, this park has been a hallowed spot for locals for centuries. The recent designation as the nations newest national park invites travelers, like you, to visit, explore and discover your own slice of heaven.
Easily accessible by Route 19 and I-64, the New River Gorge is one of West Virginias most photographed areas. The iconic steel arch bridge was once the longest in the world and welcomes travelers to this cherished region. Widely known as the second oldest river in the world, the New River cuts through extensive geological formations that make way for diverse flora and fauna. Bald eagles and peregrine falcons call this park home, and youll often spot a few along your travels. Hiking trails here take you to spectacular overlooks and through remnants of old coal mining towns.
New River Gorge Camping
New River Gorge has many different campgrounds around the park for primitive and RV camping. Many of the sites are on a first come, first served basis. There are also backcountry camping opportunities, as well as overnight river trips.
For more information on New River Gorge campgrounds, check out their camping information page here to plan your trip.
Love National Parks? Be sure to read about all of West Virginia’s National Parks here.
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Summer In The New River Gorge
Summer is the busiest time of year in the New River Gorge. All the activities and camp resorts are open and running, and it’s the time of year when you’re likely to find more crowded trails and less lodging options .
Summer is also when things get a bit hot and sticky in this part of West Virginia , but thankfully there are plenty of water-based activities to partake in.
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AAAs in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
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Thurmond National Historic District
Now a ghost town with a population of five permanent residents, historic Thurmond lies deep within the heart of the gorge and allows park visitors to imagine more vividly what life here might have been like at the turn of the 20th century.
“The Thurmond Historic District is the ultimate history sampler for the park,” French-Burr says.
A seasonal attraction, the Thurmond Visitor Center opens in warm-weather months in the town’s historic railroad passenger station. However, visitors are welcome to explore the town and the handful of historic buildings overlooking the New River year-round.
“I think it’s the most fun to park in the parking lot on the Dun Glen side of the river and walk over the New River bridge to the depot and town,” she says.
Thurmond is an eight-mile drive from the US-19 expressway at Glen Jean. Visitors should allow themselves 20 minutes to make the drive, which follows a curving and somewhat narrow road into the gorge. Larger vehicles such as campers should use caution accessing the site.
Fall In The New River Gorge
Autumn is another great time to visit this national park, especially if you love fall colors. The forests here don’t change all at once like in some other parts of the country, but that just means there’s a longer display of fall foliage here.
October is the best month for spotting fall colors in the New River Gorge, though some activities start slowing down this month. The famous Bridge Day also takes place in October every year, when adventurous base jumpers jump off the New River Gorge Bridge.
If you want the cooler temperatures of fall but want to avoid any potential leaf-peeping crowds, then September might be a better fall month to plan your visit.
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Top Things To Do In New River Gorge National Park
And now we come to the real meat of this guide: all the amazing things you can DO at New River Gorge National Park. There really is something here for everyone, whether you’re into outdoor adventure sports, American history, or just enjoying some really pretty views.
Before visiting the New River Gorge for the first time, I’ll admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about it. I knew it was in West Virginia coal country, and I new that it had a famous bridge over a river. And that was about it!
But this just meant that each new discovery of an amazing view or adorable town or interesting tidbit of history was both surprising and exciting. I love to be surprised by destinations, and the New River Gorge certainly delivered!
Here’s a look at some of the must-dos here:
Restoring An Ecosystem With Diverse Wildlife
Despite the environmental degradation and pollution that industry unleashed, some unique ecological features make the gorge well-suited to a diverse combination of wildlife, which has slowly reappeared as time has passed.
The river lies at the center of a migration corridor where plants and animals that typically range further north or south come together, including several federally endangered and threatened species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat and the Allegheny woodrat.
According to Lizzie Watts, the parks superintendent, the river itself is also notably warmer than surrounding areas, making it a popular warm-water fishing destination with more than a dozen public access points. The river is one of the premier spots for smallmouth bass fishing on the east coast, and muskellunge and walleye are common in the park today.
The next generation will have the opportunity to see what, in the last 150 years, it looks like when an area goes from being logged and mined to left alone, Ms. Watts said. The ecosystem has come back to full trees and mature forests.
To show off our rock climbing, our extreme sports availabilities in that area, is just really exciting, said Ms. Capito of what she described as a kind of wild and wonderful part of our state.
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Where To Eat In The New River Gorge
The New River Gorge is dotted with a bunch of small mountain towns, and you can actually find some great food in many of them!
We stayed in Fayetteville, which has a large number of local restaurants. Our favorite spots included:
- Cathedral Cafe A super cute cafe inside an old converted church. The food is great here!
- Wood Iron Eatery A trendy cafe serving up good coffee and breakfast dishes.
- Pies & Pints A local go-to for pizza and beer.
- The Pink Pig A local BBQ joint in an old service station.
- The Handle Bar + Kitchen Located at Arrowhead Bike Farm, this beer garden is a fun outdoor option.
Can You Swim In The New River Gorge
Yes, swimming is allowed within New River Gorge National Park. Swimming within the New River isnt recommended. The New River is a high-volume river with swift currents, deep holes, and a rocky bottom. It isnt uncommon for the river to have steep drop-offs and hydraulics undertows.
If you wish to swim in New River Gorge National Park, there are several smaller creeks that offer safer swimming options.
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When To Visit: Weather Vs Peak Visitation
New River Gorge National Park is the 47th most visited park in the country.
We crunched 30 years of historical weather and/or park service data to find the best months to visit New River Gorge National Park. We looked for the optimal temperatures, the least amount of snow and rain, and stayed away from peak visitation months if we could help it. All this data then helped us paint a picture as to what the absolute best time to visit New River Gorge National Park is.
Our data shows the best months to visit New River Gorge National Park are .
What You Need To Know Before Visiting
There are no developed lodging options inside the park. I know, it sucks, but the New River Gorge doesnt have any campgrounds within its boundaries. There also arent any cabins or lodges inside the park. You can find some primitive campsites throughout the gorge, some of which are accessible by gravel roads, but theyre first come, first served only and have no water or hookups. Most backcountry camping is located along the river and is accessible only by boat. The good news is that there are plenty of campgrounds and cabins just outside the park on private land.
The New is full of history. The New is not a pristine wilderness like some national park units. The slopes surrounding the New River were logged extensively and mined for coal during the early 1900s. Youll find remnants of that extractive past all over the park, from rusted cables hiding in the brush to retired mine sites along popular trails. Youll even find entire mining camps that were abandoned 100 years ago.
Park roads are narrow and winding. Most of the two-lane roads were established decades ago, when cars were smaller and slower, and drop from the rim of the gorge to the river in a series of sharp switchbacks. Dont hurry, keep your eyes on the road, and leave the trailer or oversized RV at home.
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How To Be A Conscientious Visitor
The New has layers and layers of human history that can be explored within the park boundaries, with abandoned coal mines and entire towns being swallowed by the gorges lush forest. Youre welcome to explore the remnants of that past within reasonstay out of the mines, and leave everything where you find it so others can have a similar experience. There is also still quite a bit of private land surrounding the park. Some landowners have trail systems that are open to the public, and some do not. Respect the property owners and only venture onto land you have a right to visit. Hunting is also allowed in much of the national park and preserve land. Designations typically keep hunters and hikers separate, but be mindful if you decide to explore beyond the most popular areas.
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Go Hiking In The New River Gorge
The New River Gorge is focused around the river carving through the local Nuttall sandstone. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any hiking trails here!
Within New River Gorge National Park, there are about 100 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy to challenging. Most of the trails are fairly short , but many can be connected if you’re looking for a longer hike.
Since the park stretches along 53 miles of river, there are several different sections with trails. The most popular trails in the New River Gorge include:
These are just a small selection of trails you can hike in the New River Gorge. For more options, check out the NPS hiking guide to the park.
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New River Gorge Bridge
NPS photo/Louise McLaughlin
When the New River Gorge Bridge was completed on October 22, 1977, a travel challenge was solved. The bridge reduced a 40-minute drive down narrow mountain roads and across one of North America’s oldest rivers to less than a minute. When it comes to road construction, mountains do pose a challenge. In the case of the New River Gorge Bridge, challenge was transformed into a work of structural art – the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.
The New River Gorge Bridge is one of the most photographed places in West Virginia. The bridge was chosen to represent the state on the commemorative quarter released by the U.S. Mint in 2006. In 2013, the National Park Service listed the New River Gorge Bridge in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant historic resource.
The Cream Of The Crop
The National Park Service, created in 1916, oversees more than 400 areas across the country, including national monuments, seashores and battlefields as well as parks, which together total more than 85 million acres.
While the new title for New River Gorge does not fundamentally alter the areas day-to-day operations, both lawmakers and the Park Service tend to view national parks as the crown jewels of the park system a protection granted to some of the largest and most prized tracts of the country.
National Park status is usually considered like the cream of the crop, Ms. Watts said. But it really is just another one of those names.
The New River Gorge does not match the scale of many national parks in the western United States, where Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone sprawl over more than 1 million acres each.
Nevertheless, officials expect the new designation to bring a substantial influx of travelers, boosted in part by a dedicated set of enthusiasts who strive to visit every national park.
In typical years, around 1.3 million travelers visit the gorge, according to the Park Services tourism data. Based on studies of other areas that received national park status, Ms. Capito said she expects to see visitors increase by as much as 20 percent.
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