FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Comprising one of the most famous rock climbing destinations in the U.S., the cliffs that outcrop along the gorges of the New, Gauley, and Meadow rivers in southern West Virginia attract thousands of rock climbers annually.
However, the popularity of the newly established New River Gorge National Park and Preserve and Summersville Lake State Park have resulted in unmatched visitation, and hikers and climbers are visiting the cliffs in more significant numbers than ever.
To help manage the human impact on the cliffs, the New River Alliance of Climbers is partnering with the National Park Service and Army Corp of Engineers to educate climbers.
The alliance and its partners are hosting two stewards from the Access Fund, a nonprofit rock-climbing advocacy group, to provide environmental protection and education at popular climbing areas in the region.
According to park superintendent Charles Sellars, the nationwide popularity of the climbing area demands that extra measures be taken to educate visitors.
“[The] New River is one of the premiere climbing destinations in the eastern United States,” Sellars said.
"With the increased popularity of this sport and the area, ensuring the protection of our cliff line ecosystem is of utmost importance. We are pleased to be a part of this program again this year. It was met with great success from the climbing community last year, and we anticipate it will again.”
Brandy L. Acord, Summersville Lake manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
“We are always glad to partner with the National Park Service, and it’s refreshing to know the Climber Stewards have the very best interest of our natural resources at heart with this program," Acord said.
"Their promotion and education of impact reduction, Leave No Trace ethics, and general courtesy at our heavily utilized climbing areas is helping shift how the visiting public uses and respects Summersville Lake."
The program started in 2022 and proved to be extremely popular with climbers and local land managers. For six months, the stewards had 4,712 interactions with park visitors.
Along with contacting visitors at popular climbing areas, the stewards will host Climber Coffees every Friday and Saturday at popular trailheads in the northern New River Gorge and Sunday at Summersville Lake.
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