West Virginia’s New River Gorge National Park and Preserve gained an additional 963 acres this month, thanks to collaborative efforts between the nonprofit Conservation Fund and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), as well as financial resources from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The added acreage will increase access to public lands open for hunting and outdoor recreational activities.
“Adding new land to New River Gorge National Park is a win for West Virginia,” said U.S. Representative Carol Miller at a celebratory event. “These additional 963 acres will provide more recreational opportunities and economic growth, while preserving our rich history and culture. Last year, New River Gorge National Park had a record number of visitors, and with this addition of land, more people will be able to enjoy its beauty. West Virginia is truly a wild and wonderful place, and I look forward to visiting this new stretch in our first national park.”
According to the Conservation Fund, the new land, located near Sandstone, W.Va., is in a historically significant area called Irish Mountain, named for the early Irish immigrants who settled there in the late 1800s. The Conservation Fund acquired the land from private owners in November of 2021 and will soon transfer it to the NPS.
“The familiar John Denver lyric, ‘Life is old there, older than the trees,’ is emblematic for the New River Gorge,” said the Conservation Fund’s vice president and West Virginia director Joe Hankins. “This is a place with ancient geology, a cultural history of immigration, hard work, and community—and a river that flows through the very heart of West Virginia. The Conservation Fund is honored to help assure that a family land legacy will continue, now permanently conserved and newly made part of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. We are grateful to the congressional delegation for the LWCF funding and to the Department of the Interior and National Park Service for the partnership to preserve this special place.”
Originally established as a national river in 1978, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve was redesignated in 2020. The park includes a 53-mile stretch of the river with sections revered by whitewater paddlers and rafters. The added acres feature landscapes with dramatic elevation gain, ranging from 1,600 to 2,700 feet and offering sweeping views of the upper river canyon.
Cover photo: Views of the New River Gorge Bridge from the Endless Wall trail. Courtesy of Getty Images by Tim Pennington