The New River, the centerpiece of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, is surrounded by 70,000 acres of ghost towns, vestiges of an industrial past, strenuous hiking trails, serene waterfalls, and unforgettable vistas.
Before the creation of the national park in 1978, New River Gorge was pockmarked by numerous coal mines, company towns, tipples, and coke ovens, all connected by a labyrinth of railways and conveyors. It helped fuel the industrial revolution of the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Some of those sites, like Kay Moor, Nuttallburg, and Thurmond, were preserved when the New River Gorge National River was created.
Nature has reclaimed much of what was destroyed during the decades of intense industrial use at New River. Continuous swaths of mature hillside and bottomland forests line both sides of the gorge, broken up only with daunting cliffs, wetlands, waterfalls, and the occasional building or ruin. Today, the gorge is renowned for its recreational opportunities, such as bird watching, cycling, fishing, hiking, hunting, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting.
The lower gorge of the New River is acclaimed as a premier whitewater rafting location with Class III to Class V rapids, obstructed by large boulders and powered by massive currents, crosscurrents, and hydraulics. The upper gorge is less challenging, with Class I to Class III rapids for whitewater canoeing.
One of the highlights of the park, visible from the Canyon Rim Visitors Center, is the New River Gorge Bridge which carries US Route 19 over the New River. At 876-feet, it is the third highest crossing in the country. The Corten steel used in its construction gives the bridge a rust color.