Get ready to raft in a new national park.
West Virginia’s New River Gorge is set to become the nation’s newest national park, thanks to legislation passed by Congress this past December. Yes, that means rapids like Lower Keeney and Junkyard Wall are now in an official national park.
According to American Whitewater, the “New River Gorge National Park and Preserve” will become the 63rd national park in the U.S., and will continue to be one of three federally designated landscapes in West Virginia managed by the National Park Service, including the Gauley National Recreation Area and the Bluestone National Scenic River. The New’s original designation as a national river took place in 1978.
The New River Gorge has 53 miles of free-flowing whitewater, highlighted by the “Lower New,” a 13-mile Class IV-V stretch. Climbers flock to its 1,500 routes, and mountain bikers to its 13 miles of trails. The new designation will create a 7,021-acre park around the gorge, while the remaining 65,165 acres will be designated a national preserve open to hunting. The area has been protected as one of America’s four national rivers since the late seventies.
According to AW’s Evan Stafford, Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) both pursued the national park designation and said they expect visitorship to increase and for the new park to boost economic growth. While the proposal faced opposition from some hunters and anglers, most stakeholders, including rafting outfitters, were behind the designation.
AW reports that the NPS doesn’t anticipate any changes in how the park is presently operating when it comes to paddling options, with no plans for permits, entrance fees or other new regulations.
But the designation will hopefully draw more visitors and positive economic impacts to the area.
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