Meet the United States’ Newest National Park: New River Gorge

Look, Ma! Something good from 2020

Grandview Overlook
Dennis Govoni / Getty Images

Last year wasn't a complete train wreck of disappointment. At the final hour, the United States managed to add another national park to their roster. Signed and sealed on Dec. 27, 2020, West Virginia's New River Gorge officially became the 63rd national park and 20th national preserve in the United States. Located in the southern part of the state, New River Gorge is one of the oldest rivers in the country and is the first park in West Virginia to be minted as a bonafide national park and preserve.

“The New River Gorge is truly one of West Virginia's most treasured playgrounds and largest tourist attractions because of its whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, outdoor sports, and natural beauty,” Senator Manchin said in a press release statement.

“This designation will increase the international recognition by highlighting West Virginia’s world-class beauty and resources,” the statement continues. “Over the last two years, we have met with outdoorsmen, businesses and local leaders and other interested groups to ensure this designation will promote the beauty and rich history of the New River Gorge, while ensuring that the longstanding traditions of hunting and fishing are protected for generations to come.”

The designation was folded into Congress’ year-end spending package, which also included pandemic relief and a comprehensive energy package. The national park designation will create a 7,021-acre national park within New River Gorge and a 65,165-acre national preserve.

According to Senator Manchin’s official website, the new designation will open up 368 acres for hunting in Grandview for the first time. As per local hunters' requests, it will also keep 301 acres of the Lower Gorge open for hunting. The National Park Service will also be authorized to bid on up to 3,711 acres of land for potential addition to the preserve and up to 100 acres near the park and preserve for parking.

New Gorge River has been a longtime park favorite to locals and outdoor enthusiasts in-the-know. The national park is a one-stop-shop for adventure activities from rock climbing to riding rapids to biking—all set among dramatic vistas of a rumbling river, high-stretching forests, and the sharp-sloped sides of the gorge. Park visitors can also camp, hike, stand-up paddleboard, fish, hunt, and picnic on park grounds.

“The New River Gorge is such an important part of West Virginia and a real source of pride in our state,” Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia’s Republican senator, said in the statement. “Redesignation of the National River to a National Park and Preserve will shine a brighter light on West Virginia and all that it has to offer, and provide another catalyst for our tourism industry and local businesses.” 

Get acquainted with New River Gorge by visiting its shiny new dedicated page on the National Park Service website.

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  1. WVVA. "New River Gorge becomes West Virginia's first national park." Published December 22, 2020. Retrieved Jan 5, 2021.