The erosive power of the ancient New River and the resistance of sandstone strata have combined near Fayetteville, West Virginia, to create the New River Gorge, one of the most dramatic landscapes in West Virginia and the namesake of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Hundreds of thousands of visitors annually travel to visit the gorge, to climb its cliffs, raft its rapids, and hike and bike its flanks.
New River Gorge Region
The New River Gorge serves as a focus for the New River Gorge Region, which has been variously defined, but which usually includes the gorge, its narrow valley upstream, and the tablelands that surround both.
Defining the New River Gorge
Though much of the steep-walled valley of the New River in West Virginia is popularly referred to as the New River Gorge, as geologically defined, the gorge consists of a six-mile section of valley below the the inflow of Keeneys Creek, near Winona, and above Mill Creek, near Ansted, West Virginia. Tributaries of the New River in the gorge descend swiftly from the surrounding plateaus, while tributaries elsewhere most often join the river after gradually descending over a distance. The New River Gorge may most obviously be characterized by its well-defined rim, most often demarcated by cliffs that tower more than 100 feet above the flanks of the gorge. More than a mile of unbroken cliffline outcrops along the rim in some area. Thousand of rock climbers ascend its cliffs throughout the year, and the gorge is reputed to be one of the most popular destinations for climbing in the eastern U.S.
Observing the New River Gorge
Vantage points along the rim of the gorge have long attracted sightseers. Hawks Nest, an overlook at Hawks Nest State Park, gained renown in the early 1800s after the James River & Kanawha Turnpike (the predecessor of highway US-60) opened the region to trans-Allegheny travel. Vistas along the cliffline at Long Point and Beauty Mountain became traditional picnic destinations as the area was settled. The National Park Service developed overlook areas on the gorge at its Canyon Rim Visitor Center in the 1980s after the completion of the New River Gorge Bridge.
Photos of the New River Gorge
Videos of the New River Gorge
The distinct rim that defines the New River Gorge is particularly obvious from this vantage at Beauty Mountain.
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Content for this page has been sponsored by Bill Shaver in memory of his parents, Garland J. and Dorothy J. Shaver.