New River Gorge National Wild & Scenic River Overview
|Raft on the New River and the New River Gorge Bridge, West Virginia (Bob Byrd)|
Together, the New River and its gorge present a majestic display of natural forces. The gorge remained almost inaccessible along its entire length until the railroad opened this isolated part of West Virginia in 1873. The railroad followed the riverbank and made possible the shipment of coal to the outside world. At one time, company men clashed with miners in now-famous disputes that defined American labor history.
Towns grew up, flourished, and were abandoned once the mines played out. In the southern stretches, where the river is quiet in a broad floodplain, farming developed as a way of life devoid of the coalfield strife, providing its own contribution to Southern Appalachian culture. The river, too, has served as a migration route for plants and animals as well as people. Some of West Virginia's rarest plants are found in the area.
Today, 53 miles of this river and its gorge and 40 miles of its tributaries are preserved as New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Recreation Area, and Bluestone National Scenic River, which are all units of the National Park System.
Raft the New River
A rugged, whitewater river, flowing north through deep canyons, the New River manages to transect every ridge of the Alleghenies, falling 750 feet in 50 miles from Bluestone Dam to Gauley Bridge. Within the park, the New River has two very different characters. The upper (southern) part of the river consists primarily of long pools, and relatively easy rapids up to Class III. It is a big powerful river, but very beautiful, always runnable, and provides excellent fishing and camping. The northern section of the river is often referred to as "the Lower Gorge." The Lower Gorge has some of the biggest of the big with rapids ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V. The rapids are imposing and forceful, many of them obstructed by large boulders. These are full-grown rapids—big, brawny, and bodacious.
Hike the Bluestone Turnpike Trail
This seven-mile trail follows along the Bluestone River, and offers a tranquil riverside experience. Access is from Bluestone and Pipestem State Parks. But that's not all. New River Gorge National River provides a variety of different trails throughout the park. Peaceful forest trails, superb overlooks, and historic scenery are all found here. Difficulty varies from flat, smooth walking to steep challenging terrain. Trail recommendations and maps are offered at Canyon Rim, Grandview, Hinton, and Thurmond visitor centers. Ranger guided hikes are available throughout the park.
Climb the Afternoon Delight Route
Within the 63,000 acres of New River Gorge National River are over 1,400 established rock climbs. "The New" has become one of the most popular climbing areas in the country. The cliffs at New River Gorge are made up of a very hard sandstone, and range from 30 to 120 feet in height. The rock is very featured, with an abundance of crack and face routes. Most of the routes in the gorge favor the advanced and expert climber. The climbing season at New River extends from April through November. The best months are usually late April to mid-June, and mid-September to late October.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication