Technically, it’s called New River Gorge National River Area. It’s managed by the National Park Service, so you’ll see and talk to park rangers here. That’s helpful, because there are over 70,000 acres to explore. Within the park, lots of adventure awaits in the form of whitewater rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, and plenty more.
The history of the gorge, more than anything else, is tied to coal and logging. Coal moving up and down the river by railroad is what created the once-vibrant and thriving communities along the river. Most all of them are gone now, but their history still remains in the people of this region. Stop into one of the many museums in the area, and get a sense of what life in an old coal town was like, back during the boom years. The stories are at once very real, very old, and uniquely American.
MUST SEE SPOTS
There’s no shortage of things to see and do around the New River Gorge. But there are a few you’ll definitely want to put on your must-see list. It starts, of course, with the New River Gorge Bridge; there’s a museum, a slide show, and two overlooks at the visitors center. Then, a trip to Grandview is worth every second. You’ll see amazing views, climb through some cliff tunnels, and enjoy the greatest stand of rhododendrons in the mountains. Finally, make sure you see Sandstone Falls, and check out the park’s new nature center while you’re there.
Just south of the gorge, the city of Beckley serves as the area’s major transportation crossroads. Check out the exhibition coal mine there, as well as the world-class ATV trail systems in the surrounding area. To the north is the Gauley River National Recreation Area, home to some of the wildest whitewater in the world. The fall rafting season is the big event on the Gauley, but local outfitters will take you there for some paddling thrills all year long.