West Virginia Recreation Staple Designated America’s 63rd National park
The New River Gorge area of West Virginia is a well-known adventure hotspot. It holds coveted climbing crags, world-class whitewater, winding singletrack, a range of hiking trails, and the iconic New River Bridge. Regional outdoor enthusiasts have long known how special this place is, and now it’s getting the broader recognition it deserves. The New River Gorge National River is being upgraded to a national park and preserve.
Commonly referred to as the “New,” the 73,000 acres of rugged canyon terrain was designated as a national river in 1978, making it one of four of America’s national rivers. The area will be managed as a national park in a similar way as it’s currently being managed as a national river. The biggest difference will be an upgraded gold standard of land protection, which will help river advocates when fighting for clean water and ensure access to the various recreational activities the area offers. It will also make the area one of only five of the National Park Service’s national-park-and-preserve combos, with the other four being in Alaska.
The designations is not only great for conservation. It will also spotlight West Virginia’s recreation opportunities, which are driving a post-coal economy in the Mountain State.
“The potential economic impact for surrounding communities and the entire state are boundless,” U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin jointly stated in a press release. “Those adventure lovers need West Virginia stores to buy their gear, they need West Virginia restaurants to eat at, West Virginia lodges to sleep at, and they need West Virginia guides to help them navigate the Gorge. All of these things put money in the hands of hardworking West Virginians and back into our state’s economy.”
A result of the new COVID-19 economic relief bill, New River Gorge National Park will be composed of four areas, totaling approximately 7,021-acres, including the Lower Gorge, Thurmond, Grandview, and Sandstone Falls. The remaining 65,165-acres of the rugged canyon will be designated a national preserve to allow for backcountry hunting. The bill also allows the National Park Service to buy nearly 4,000-acres from neighboring landowners to potentially improve public access to the area and add to the preserve.
“This designation will allow more people to share in the wild and wonderful adventure West Virginians take so much pride in,” the senators wrote. “The New River National Gorge will be treasured and enjoyed for generations to come.”
Photo courtesy of Getty Images by Eifel Kreutz