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New River Gorge Becomes Our Newest National Park and Preserve

West Virginia Recreation Staple Designated Country’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 designation 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.

A result of the COVID-19 economic relief bill passed late last year, the newly designated 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. 

Cover photo: Sandstone Falls is a scenic gem found in West Virginia’s New River Gorge. photo courtesy of Getty Images

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