Welcome to the New River
The river and the gorgewith their impressive display of natural forcesimmediately command your attention. For centuries the gorge remained virtually inaccessible along its entire length. Then, in 1873, the railroad opened this isolated part of West Virginia, and the landscape began to change. The railroad bordered the river, making possible the shipment of coal to the outside world. Coal mining grew. Towns near the coalfields flourished. In time, company men (bosses and representatives of the coal industry) clashed with miners who demanded better working conditions. Accounts of this bitter labor movement are recorded in the songs and legends that have become part of our cultural history. The stories remain but most of the coal towns are gone, abandoned when the mines played out.
In southern stretches, where the river is quiet with a broad floodplain, farming developed as the way of life and provided its own contribution to Southern Appalachian culture.
The New River is renowned for its excellent fishing, and it is a premier whitewater boating river. Some of West Virginia's rarest plants grow here. Congress established the park in 1978 to preserve and protect this important free-flowing waterway. Today 53 miles of the river and its gorge and 40 miles of tributaries are preserved as New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Gauley River National Recreation Area, and Bluestone National Scenic River. Please help us care for the parkfor your enjoyment and for future generations.
What's in a Name?
The name, New River, is not an accurate description because this river may be one of the oldest in North America. The most-accepted estimate suggests that the river has been in its present course for at least 65 million years. The New was once a longer river (called the Teays by geologists) that flowed through central Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and emptied into the Mississippi. About 10,000 years ago the last advance of glacial ice buried most of this river and diverted water of the New into the Ohio and Kanawha rivers that were created by glacial action.
Another indication of the New River's old age is that it flows across the Appalachian Plateau, not around or from it as other streams. The river was there before the Appalachians formedand the mountains are very old.
New River's deep gorge exposes geologic history as it slices through the rock layers that tilted as the Appalachian Mountains rose. Some rocks exposed here are as old as 330 million years. Because of the nature of the tilt, younger rock layers are in the northern area of the park. As you explore the park look for black streaks, containing coal deposits.
Activities in the New River Gorge
To many visitors this park is whitewater! Here the New River falls 750 feet in 50 miles, from Bluestone Dam to Gauley Bridge, creating one of the finest whitewater rivers in the eastern United States. By comparison the Mississippi River falls 1,428 feet from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of 2,300 miles.
The park's southern end has Class I to III rapids ideal for intermediate boaters. North of Thurmond, Class I to V rapids require greater skill. Only experienced and properly equipped boaters should try to navigate these waters. For safety, others should go with an outfitter who knows the river.
Anglers fish from banks, shallows, or boats. Climbers tackle the gorge's sandstone cliffs. Others explore scenic and historic areas by foot and mountain bike or from vehicles. You can picnic at the river level and near the rim. If you enjoy vigorous activities or just relaxingNew River Gorge is for you.
Visiting New River Gorge
About the Park This park encompasses 70,000 acres along the New River between the towns of Hinton and Fayetteville, W.Va. The park and surrounding area are rich in history and in scenic and recreational opportunities.
Visitor Centers The Canyon Rim and Sandstone visitor centers offer information, exhibits, program schedules, and bookstores with publications about the gorge.
Canyon Rim Canyon Rim Visitor Center is open year-round except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. A boardwalk has views of the gorge and the New River Gorge Bridge.
Thurmond Historic District l=In the early 1900s this boomtown had the highest revenue on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. The restored depot serves as a park visitor center. (Open seasonally.)
Grandview Grandview is known for its scenic overlooks, spring rhododendron displays, outdoor theater; and trails with superb views.
Sandstone Visitor Center The visitor center is open year-round except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. The site has a picnic area and views of the gorge and the New River.
Sandstone Falls A fully accessible boardwalk leads to river-level views of the largest falls on the New River which span 1,500 feet.
Trails Trails feature old coal towns, waterfalls, geological formations, and views of the gorge. Check with park staff for information on trails that allow mountain biking and horseback riding. Some property within the park is privately owned. Please respect the rights of owners. Beware of decaying structures and industrial remains.
River Recreation Commercial outfitters conduct trips down the river from April through October. For a list of licensed outfitters, ask at a visitor center. Some of the finest fishing in the state is on the New River; a West Virginia fishing license is required.
Other Area Parks Within or near the park are seven West Virginia state parks: Carnifex Ferry Battlefield, Hawks Nest, Babcock, Little Beaver, Bluestone, Camp Creek, and Pipestem Resort. For information about these parks contact the West Virginia Division of Tourism.
Gauley River National Recreation Area is north of Canyon Rim Visitor Center. The Gauley is known for its rugged beauty, whitewater; and superb fishing. Bluestone National Scenic River, south of Hinton, protects a pristine area of the Bluestone River.
Trains CSX Transportation owns and operates 70 miles of rail lines within the park. An AMTRAK passenger train, the Cardinal, travels the gorge regularly. Trespassing on CSX tracks or access roads is dangerous and is strictly prohibited.
For Area Information
Bridge Day is the third Saturday in October.
Source: NPS Brochure (2012)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
A 23-Year Summary of a Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) Bird Banding Site in New River Gorge National River, West Virginia NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NERI/NRR-2021/2288 (Eric L. Margenau and Lenza E. Paul, August 2021)
A Biological Survey of the New River Gorge National River Volume 1: Summary of Findings (Kurt A. Buhlmann, Michael R. Vaughn, M. Delbert Lofab, Donald J. Orth, Kurt J. Jirka and Richard J. Neves, March 25, 1987)
A Research Plan to Study Appropriate River Recreation Use on the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, New River Gorge National River and Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River Mid-Atlantic Region Research/Resources Management Report(David W. Lime, Dorothy H. Anderson, Richard C. Knopf, John H. Schomaker and Richard Schreyer, July 1985)
A Socioeconomic Atlas for New River Gorge National River and its Region (Jean E. McKendry, Cynthia A. Brewer and Joel M. Staub, 2004)
Administrative History: New River Gorge National River (Gregory A. Good and Lynn Stasick, 2008)
An Allocation of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources to Gauley River National Recreation Area and New River Gorge National River, West Virginia USGS Open-File Report 2003-396 (Christopher J. Schenk, Timothy R. Klett, Ronald R. Charpentier, Troy A. Cook, Robert A. Crovelli, Richard M. Pollastro and Robert C. Milici, 2003)
Characteristics of Allegheny Woodrat (Neotoma magister) Habitat in the New River Gorge National River, West Virginia (Petra Bohall Wood, January 2001)
Geologic Resources Inventory Report, Bluestone National Scenic River, Gauley River National Recreation Area, and New River Gorge National River NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR-2017/1532 (T.L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, October 2017)
Historic Resource Study: Kay Moor New River Gorge National River, West Virginia (Sharon A. Brown, July 1990)
Historic Structure Report: Bank of Glen Jean, New River Gorge National River Administrative Data, Historical Data, Architectural Data (Norma Camarena and Sharon A. Brown, October 1990)
Historic Structure Report: Kaymoor Mine New River Gorge National River (Bonita J. Mueller, November 1997)
Historic Structure Report: Thurmond Commercial Buildings, New River Gorge National River (Sally Small, Louis Torres and Larry Reynolds, August 1992)
Historic Structures & Cultural Landscape Report: The Trump-Lilly Farm, New River Gorge National River Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology Technical Report No. 7 (Historical Data: John Nicely, Billy Joe Peyton and J. William Hill; Architectural and Landscape Data: Joe Condie, Tracy McDonald and John Nicely, August 17, 1994)
Historical Archeological Survey: New River Gorge National River and Gauley River National Recreation Area Kentucky Archaeological Survey Report No. 143 (Lori Stahlgren, Meagan Jones, Rick Burdin and Brian Mabelitini, 2007)
Identification and Preliminary Analysis of River Recreation Impacts on Fish and Wildlife: The New River Gorge National River Mid-Atlantic Region Research/Resources Management Report(Michael Patterson, Joseph W. Roggenbuck and James D. Fraser, September 1988)
Literature Review of Geology/Soils, Plants and Animal Information Pertinent to New River Gorge National River, West Virginia (William N. Grafton and Emily K. Williams Grafton, 1980)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms
Hinton Historic District (Paul D. Marshall, September 30, 1983)
Kay Moor (Kay Moor No. 1 Coal Mine) (Sharon A. Brown, July 13, 1990)
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District (Rita Walsh, David N. Fuerst and Richard W. Segars, March 2005, May 2005)
Prince Brothers General Store (Berry Store/Prince Store) (William E. Cox and Rodney S. Collins, January 29, 1986)
Thurmond Historic District (R. Eugene Harper, September 15, 1983)
Trump-Lilly Farmstead (Leigh McGowan, January 31, 1990)
Natural Resource Condition Assessment, New River Gorge National River NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NERI/NRR-2018/1622 (Carolyn G. Mahan and John A. Young, April 2018)
New River Gorge National River: A Narrative History of Its Designation as Part of the National Park System Mid-Atlantic Region Research/Resources Management ReportMAR-19 (Steven Simpson and Leo McAvoy, January 1987)
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Bottom Sediment and Bioavailability in Streams in the New River Gorge National River and Gauley River National Recreation Area, West Virginia, 2002 USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5045 (Terence Messinger, 2004)
Special History Study/Historic Context Study, New River Gorge National River, West Virginia (Harlan D. Unrau, August 1996)
Summary of Research Objectives, Accomplishments, and Future Needs for the Study of Appropriate River Recreation Use on the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, New River Gorge National River and Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River Mid-Atlantic Region Research/Resources Management Report(David W. Lime, January 18, 1989)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 16-Jun-2022