The 2.3 trillion coronavirus relief package that was signed in December brought a pleasant surprise: a new national park. New River Gorge in West Virginia was designated a national park by the Department of Interior making it the 63rd national park in the country.
“We are excited. For us, it would probably lend more opportunities to let the world know that this is a beautiful area,” said Eve West, the chief of interpretation at New River Gorge National Park. “A lot of times the public recognizes the term national park more so than national river or national monument.
In 1978, it first became protected by the national park service as a national river, making it one of the more than 400 units of the national park service.
The bridge that runs through the gorge was completed in 1977 making it the third tallest bridge in the United States and one of the most notable landmarks in West Virginia. It is also said to be one of the longest steel span bridges in the western hemisphere.
“This is a tremendously diverse park,’ said West. “We got a lot of cultural stories that we tell, coal mining, railroading, logging, civil rights, the stories are just amazing.”
Since December, the park has seen a surge in visitors because of its more recognizable name. There is a little bit for all areas of interest.
“We’ve got over 100 miles of hiking trails just in the park, and some of those are also trails you can bike…just a real diversity of trails we have to offer.” said West. “Of course, there is rock climbing and mountain biking, river rafting, hunting and fishing.”
Eric, an avid hiker and national park goer, is a first timer at the park and came because he heard its name change and really enjoyed all it had to offer.
“So far, I’ve really enjoyed the grand scenic view, seeing the river and the mountains, and everything, just great,” said Eric. “My favorite part is getting to see all the nature and all the views, it’s really inspiring.”
The New River is about 320 miles long and some parts can be as deep at 750 feet. It is one of the very few rivers in North America that flows from South to North, making it a thrilling experience for white water rafters. Towering canyon walls at about 1,600 feet make for riveting rock climbing.
With a new national park in the mix, people have the opportunity to explore and bring awareness to the preservation of these breathtaking land masses.
“If you are into outdoor recreation, this is a great park,” said West. “From our perspective, this is the opportunity to let more people know how wonderful this place is and that’s great.”