National Geographic names rafting New River Gorge top 2024 experience

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National Geographic names rafting New River Gorge top 2024 experience
National Geographic magazine has declared whitewater rafting in the New River Gorge one of its top experiences. (Photo: W.Va. Dept. of Commerce)

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Whitewater rafting in the New River Gorge in West Virginia has been named one of National Geographic magazine’s “Best of the World” Top 20 Travel Experiences for 2024.

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The internationally acclaimed publication selected whitewater rafting in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve as one of the world’s top wonders to experience this year, according to Gov. Jim Justice and the W.Va. Department of Tourism.

Rafters paddling the New River Gorge are often routed beneath the towering New River Gorge Bridge. (Photo: W.Va. Dept. of Commerce)

“If the world didn’t know before about the beautiful state we get to call home, they surely do now,” Gov. Justice said.

“I’ve been saying for years that West Virginia is a diamond in the rough. Well, now we’re shining for all to see, and it’s much deserved. We’ve worked hard to change our image and it’s made all of the difference for tourism in the state. I’m so proud and I can’t wait for new visitors to experience Almost Heaven because of honors like this one.”

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Each year, National Geographic releases its "Best of the World" list, celebrating travel experiences illuminating the world and the diversity of communities and people within it.

The list is selected and written by National Geographic global editors from around the world, collaborating with National Geographic experts and expedition leaders.

According to Amy Alipio, senior editor of travel at the magazine, rafting in West Virginia made this year’s list, along with highly acclaimed experiences such as an eclipse in Niagara Falls and glacier treks in Chile.

"West Virginia, in particular, was a fun addition for us, as we tend to look for places that combine both interesting cultures, like Appalachia, and natural wonder," Alipio said.

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"Not many people know that New River in West Virginia is actually one of the world's oldest rivers or that it's one of the best places in the world to go white water rafting!"

This designation follows a series of recent significant announcements by Forbes Advisor, Thrillist, Condé Nast Traveler, Outside Magazine, Lonely Planet, TIME, USA Today, and Frommer’s that together rank West Virginia as a leading global destination for travel.

West Virginia Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby said her office is proud of the state's work to improve the visibility of destinations such as the New River Gorge, which became a national park in 2020.

“In my very first meeting with Gov. Justice seven years ago, he told me that we were going to show the world just how great West Virginia truly is, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Ruby said.

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“Since then, our goal has been to highlight the unbelievable wonders of the Mountain State each and every day, and we are thrilled to see major publications continue to recognize how incredible West Virginia really is.”

The nation’s newest national park, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve offers travelers more than 70,000 acres of scenic beauty and outdoor recreation, including whitewater rafting.

Rafters worldwide have traveled to West Virginia for years to paddle its whitewater rivers. Still, the new national park designation has brought even greater attention to the world-class recreation in the southern part of the state.

Read about National Geographic’s.

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