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The New River Gorge National River, previously one of only three national rivers, was redesignated as a national park and preserve in December 2020. The park consists of 7,021 acres at the heart of the gorge, spanned by the New River Gorge Bridge. Over 65,000 acres of the park is a preserve on which hunting and fishing are permitted. It is the nation’s 63rd national park, and is only the second U.S. site outside Alaska to be designated both a park and a preserve.

A unit of the National Park System, the New River Gorge National River was established by Congress on November 10, 1978 and was created for the purpose of conserving and interpreting outstanding natural, scenic, and historic values and objects. The site’s first superintendent was James Carrico, who established temporary park headquarters on Main Street in Oak Hill. The first day of operation as a National River was May 7, 1983, when the first visitor center for the new park opened near Fayetteville.

Four visitor centers in the park educate and inform visitors about the cultural, natural, and recreational opportunities along the national river: Canyon Rim, Sandstone, Grandview, and Thurmond. The park boundary starts in Hinton and runs 53 miles downriver to the New River Gorge Bridge.

The New River, with its deep gorge and forested flanks, is very scenic, and offers water-related activities including whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. Some of the best warm-water fishing in the state of West Virginia is located on the New River, where mountain biking and hiking trails may also be enjoyed year round. Several abandoned mining communities and many coke ovens are located in the gorge, once the center of the New River Coalfield. Mining and railroading have left a rich industrial heritage, interpreted at Thurmond and other sites.

The National Park Service is directing its resources to maintaining the park in its natural state, preserving its cultural past for future generations, and presenting educational and interpretive programs to visitors, asking that they join in protecting this treasure of West Virginia and the nation.

In 2023, nearly 500,000 people visited the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. The center, which opened in 1991, closed for $1.8 million in renovations in early 2024 and reopened on March 2.

Visit the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve official website


e-WV presents West Virginia Public Broadcasting on New River Gorge National River

This Article was written by W. Eugene Cox

Last Revised on March 22, 2024

Cite This Article

Cox, W. Eugene "New River Gorge National Park and Preserve." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 22 March 2024. Web. 20 July 2024.


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