With interest in domestic travel and outdoor adventure surging, maybe it’s time you pencil in this destination on your “Places To Go” list.

New River Gorge
Photo courtesy of Nick Palastro
Sunrise over New River Gorge
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Amid a tumultuous past couple of months that have steered the attention of much of the country, Congress quietly passed a bill in late December that granted official designation to one region as America’s 63rd national park.

West Virginia’s New River Gorge, a 70,000-acre region highlighted by rolling mountains and the picturesque New River, was officially given the designation as part of the aptly named New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Designation Act.

The expansive area will now be divided into two sections. First, New River Gorge National Park will, somewhat surprisingly, encompass just over 7,000 acres. The region’s approximately 65,000 additional acres will be designated a national preserve, a move designed to enable the continuation of the area’s high rate of fishing and hunting tourism, according to the bill approved by Congress.

Of interest is that the national park designation came as part of the recent COVID-19 relief package, a recognition of the local economic boost national parks can generate through tourism.

“The New River Gorge is such an important part of West Virginia and a real source of pride in our state,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said in a release. “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.”

The 7,021-acre national park, meanwhile, will consist of four sections, including:

  • The Lower Gorge: “This will make up the majority of the National Park,” a West Virginia Senate release said. “Most of the land is steep, rough terrain that overlooks the New River below. This section is also home to the New River Gorge Bridge, which is the third tallest bridge in the United States.”
  • Thurmond: “The inclusion of the Thurmond protects and highlights the history of a town once at the heart of the coal boom and now a popular place for tourists to go and learn about West Virginia’s rich coal heritage.”
  • Grandview: “This area is known for its five hiking trails and scenic overlooks.”
  • Sandstone Falls: “This portion of the Park is home to the largest waterfall on the New River and a unique botanical ecosystem, which is caused by the river flowing north across the region.”

With interest in domestic travel and outdoor adventure surging due to COVID-related travel restrictions, maybe it’s time you pencil in West Virginia on your “Places To Go” list.

Get more information on America’s newest national park.