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New River Gorge National River

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Title: New River Gorge National River  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Collection: Campgrounds in West Virginia, Canyons and Gorges of West Virginia, Climbing Areas of the United States, Former State Parks of West Virginia, Landforms of Fayette County, West Virginia, Landforms of Raleigh County, West Virginia, Landforms of Summers County, West Virginia, National Coal Heritage Area, National Park Service Wild and Scenic Rivers, Natural History of West Virginia, New River Gorge National River, Protected Areas Established in 1978, Protected Areas of Fayette County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Raleigh County, West Virginia, Protected Areas of Summers County, West Virginia, United States National Park Service Areas in West Virginia
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

New River Gorge National River

New River Gorge National River
IUCN category II (national park)
The New River Valley from Hawk's Nest State Park.
Map of the United States
Location Fayette, Raleigh, and Summers counties, West Virginia, United States
Nearest city Beckley, West Virginia
Area 72,808 acres (295 km2)[1]
Established 1978
Visitors 1,128,195[2] (in 2012)
Governing body National Park Service

The New River Gorge National River is a unit of the West Virginia. Established in 1978, the NPS-protected area stretches for 53 miles (85 km) from just downstream of Hinton to Hawks Nest State Park near Ansted.

New River Gorge is also home to some of the country's best American Whitewater.[3]

New River Gorge is also one of the most popular climbing areas on the east coast with over 1,400 established rock climbs. The cliffs at "The New" are located just below the rim of the gorge and are made up of a very hard Yosemite Decimal System with about an equal number of traditional and sport climbs.

New River Gorge National River was established in 1978 as a unit of the national park system. Located in the Appalachian Mountains of southern West Virginia, the park encompasses over 72,808 acres (295 km2) of land along 53 miles (85 km) of the New River from Bluestone Dam to Hawks Nest State Park.[1] A rugged, white water river, flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. The park is rich in cultural and natural history and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.

President Jimmy Carter signed legislation establishing New River Gorge National River on November 10, 1978 (Public Law 95-625). As stated in the legislation, the park was established as a unit of the national park system “for the purpose of conserving and interpreting outstanding natural, scenic, and historic values and objects in and around the New River Gorge and preserving as a free-flowing stream an important segment of the New River in West Virginia for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”


  • Geologic features 1
  • Aquatic life 2
  • Diverse flora 3
  • Human settlements 4
  • Natural beauty 5
  • Recreation 6
  • Major features 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Geologic features

Section of the cliff at Endless Wall in New River Gorge

Flowing water is the creative force shaping the geologic features of the New River Gorge as the river continues to sculpt the longest and deepest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains. On display in the gorge one can find a variety of unique geologic features and processes that exemplify the geology of the Appalachian Plateau, including the exposure of over 1,000 feet (300 m) of sandstone and shale, house-sized boulders scattered from rim to river, plant and invertebrate fossils, and steep channel drop-offs. The river has exposed four seams of coal, considered among the best bituminous coal in the world. The smokeless New River coal once fed the boilers of the nation's trains, factories, fleets and power plants, and its coke fueled the nation's iron furnaces.

Aquatic life

The waters of the New River system contain a mosaic of hydrologic features and aquatic habitats that support a unique aquatic ecosystem and nourish a riparian zone that supports rare plants, animals, and communities. The waters provide a surprising variety and density of riverine hydrologic features and processes unparalleled in the Eastern United States, including pools, backwaters, glides, runs, shoals, riffles, torrents, cascades, chutes, rapids and waterfalls.

The river is a highly productive aquatic ecosystem that includes distinct populations of native fish (many found nowhere else), mussels, crayfish, and a broad array of other aquatic life, including rare amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The riparian zone is the most biologically diverse part of the park, and contains globally rare communities and essential habitat for several rare species. The New River is a dynamic aquatic ecosystem that supports smallmouth bass and other game fish, mussels, crayfish, other invertebrates, and aquatic plants.

Diverse flora

New River Gorge National River lies at the core of a globally significant forest containing the most diverse flora of any river gorge in central and southern Appalachia and provides essential habitat for endangered mammals and rare birds and amphibians. The park contains habitats of continuous forest, cliff and rimrock, forest seeps and wetlands, mature bottomland forests, abandoned mine portals (providing a refuge for rare species, including bats, amphibians, and the Allegheny woodrat; a species of special concern in West Virginia and in decline throughout the eastern United States). New River Gorge offers shelter to at least 63 species of mammals including the endangered Virginia big-eared and Indiana bats. The river, stream tributaries, and forest provide habitat for 48 known species of amphibians including the eastern hellbender, black-bellied salamander, and cave salamander.

Diverse populations of birds such as wood warblers, vireos, and thrushes spend part of their lives in the tropics but depend upon the unfragmented forests of the New River Gorge for breeding. The region is a vital link in the north-south migratory flyway. Each year, thousands of hawks fly across the region during the fall migratory season. The National Park Service and West Virginia Department of Natural Resources have initiated a multi-year program to restore peregrine falcons to New River Gorge. These majestic birds soar and dive near the cliffs.

Forty different plant communities containing at least 1,342 species and 54 rare plants have been identified in the gorge.

Human settlements

Within the gorge is a wealth of historically significant abandoned places, some in ruins and some stabilized and rehabilitated, where people worked and lived during the late 18th and 19th centuries, supplying the coal and lumber that helped fuel American industry. Remnants of the park's past, hidden in the forest, tell the stories of earlier life in the Appalachian Mountains. On display are the tangible remains of historic coal mining structures and coke ovens of unmatched integrity — such as at Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District and Kay Moor — and the historic structures and ruins associated with more than 50 company-owned towns.

The New River Gorge region was opened up to the outside world in 1873 with the coming of the railroad. In the park, there are old railroad depots, rail yards, rail grades, steel and timber trestle bridges, railroad equipment, archeological sites and associated towns, like Thurmond, that were developed to support the railroad. The history and archeology associated with the lumbering industry can be seen in the ruins of old towns like Hamlet. Also contributing to the area's rich cultural history are surviving examples of subsistence farms, former community sites, homesteads, and other places in the park where the ancestors of families long associated with the New River lived and worked.

Natural beauty

New River Gorge National River has diverse and extraordinary scenic resources and views accessible to visitors from the river, rocky overlooks, trails, and rural roads throughout the park. One can easily experience panoramic views of the New River, its gorge, and other landforms shaped by the New River as it cuts through the Appalachian Plateau. New River Gorge National River provides visitors with exceptional opportunities for exploration, adventure, discovery, solitude, and community.


Classic climb, Four sheets to the wind (5.9) at Junkyard cliff in New River Gorge

The Lower Gorge of the New River is a premier whitewater rafting location that attracts thrillseekers from all over the country and the world. The rapids, ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V, are imposing and forceful, many of them obstructed by large boulders which necessitate maneuvering in very powerful currents, crosscurrents, and hydraulics. Commercial outfitters conduct trips down the river from April through October. The upper part of the river offers somewhat less challenging class I to III rapids for whitewater canoeing.

New River Gorge National River has become one of the most popular rock climbing areas in the country. Within the park are over 1,400 established rock climbs. The cliffs at New River Gorge are made up of hard sandstone and range from 30 to 120 feet (37 m) in height.

Fishing is one of the most popular activities on the New River. The diversity of fish in its waters makes the New River an excellent warm water fishery.

There are over 50 miles (80 km) of hiking trails in the park ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes. Several trails following old railroad grades are open to bikes. There are four primitive camping areas within the park, all located along the river.

There are two year-round visitor centers located at Sandstone and Canyon Rim.

New River Gorge National River is renowned for its excellent recreational opportunities: whitewater rafting, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, hunting, bird watching, camping, picnicking, biking, and enjoying the solitude of the natural world.

Major features


  1. ^ a b Steelhammer, Rick (September 15, 2010). "Nearly six miles of canyon slope added to New River Gorge National River".  
  2. ^ "NPS Stats Report Viewer". National Park Service. Retrieved December 23, 2013. 
  3. ^

External links

  • New River Gorge National River
  • Video of Whitewater rafting on the Lower New River
  • , a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan“Thurmond: A Town Born from Coal Mines and Railroads”
  • New River Gorge Area Information
  • West Virginia Travel Planning Information
  • Geology of the New River Gorge
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