Visitation increased in 2023 for all national park sites in southern W.Va.

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Visitation increased in 2023 for all national park sites in southern W.Va.
A climber scales the cliffs at the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. (Photo courtesy Chip Vincent)

Glen Jean, W.Va. — According to park officials, visitation increased across the board at all three national park sites in southern West Virginia in 2023.

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Visitation remains high and continues to rise at the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, which was designated as the newest national park in the U.S. in 2020, according to Deputy Superintendent Eric Laprice.

The New River Gorge Bridge spans the gorge of the New River near Fayetteville, West Virginia. (Photo: Sibray / WVExplorer)

“While our annual increase has slowed since the initial 30 percent jump in the year immediately following the redesignation,” Laprice said, “the fact that it continues to rise speaks to the value of these three national park sites to the national and international communities who’ve discovered us.”

At , 1,709,623 visitors entered the park, reflecting an increase of 7.12 percent over 2022 at 1,595,923.

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This was the highest year on record for the park since its establishment in 1978. The park also had the highest months on record for April, May, June, August, and September.

Visitation at the Gauley River National Recreation Area increased 14.5 percent, with 187,223 visitors in 2023 and 163,510 in 2022.

Visitation at the Bluestone National Scenic River increased 53 percent from 14,113 visitors in 2022 to 21,592 in 2023. The significant jump was due, in part, to the addition of new trail counters at the Bluestone State Park and Lilly entrances to the park, Laprice said.

Visitation at all three park sites has increased significantly since the redesignation of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve from "national river" to "national park and preserve."

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In 2019, visitation at all three park sites totaled 1,352,666, while in 2023, visitation totaled 1,918,438, reflecting a 41.8 percent increase.

Nationwide, national parks received more than 325.5 million visits in 2023, an increase of 13 million or four percent over 2022.


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