New River Gorge National River

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Quick Overview

This is the audio only described version of the park’s official print brochure. The brochure has two sides and contains color photos, illustrations, text and a map. Side one includes general information about the New River Gorge National River as well as two other national park units located nearby, the Bluestone National Scenic River and Gauley River National Recreation Area. There is also information about boating, fishing, hiking, and climbing. Side two includes information about the park’s four visitor centers, Canyon Rim, Sandstone, Thurmond, and Grandview. There is also information about Sandstone Falls, trails, river recreation, state parks in the area, accessibility, and safety. Most of this side of the brochure is the map of New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Recreation Area, and Bluestone National Scenic River. 

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New River George: An Introduction

Photo caption: Sunrise over New River at Diamond Point.

Photo description: An orange sun sets behind blue grey clouds over a plateau as a river cuts into a steep, yellow and green, tree covered, “V” shaped gorge. White rapids hint at the furious nature of the river below. Railroad tracks can be seen cutting through the trees along both sides of the river. Red and grey rock cliffs overlook the gorge in the foreground and extend along the edge of the plateau.

Text: For most of its course, and much of its recent history, the New River has served the human needs of the southern Appalachian region. Within the 70,000 acres of New River Gorge National River, it creates a world of its own, 53 miles of whitewater and wild beauty.

Photo credit: National Park Service, Gary Hartley

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The River’s Natural and Cultural History

Text: The river is not new. It is one of the oldest rivers in the world, older than the Appalachian Mountains themselves. Here at the gorge, the river cuts through the Appalachian Plateau. Some exposed rocks are as old as 330 million years.

Human history, wild habitat, and spectacular natural beauty converge in this protected stretch of the New River and its extended family, the Bluestone and Gauley rivers. Famous for sport fishing and whitewater rafting, the rivers and their surrounding landscape offer hidden delights for those who venture off the beaten path such as coal mines that fueled the age of steam, rails and roads that opened this remote country to industry, trails that lead you to a blanket of spring wildflowers or a limitless horizon.

Illustration description: An illustration next to the text depicts the river valley and Appalachian Plateau. It is an artistic depiction of the river cutting through tilted rock layers. From the bottom of the diagram, the river begins in a wide valley with gradual slopes on either side. It flows towards a deep, narrow V shaped gorge. Different colors depict the layers of rock underneath.

Illustration caption: National Park Service 

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Tales Of Three Rivers

Description: Text about the New, Gauley and Bluestone rivers follows. Under a separate heading are descriptions of the photo highlights, including flora, fauna and historic buildings.

New River Gorge National River. For centuries this part of the New was inaccessible to most people. In 1873 the railroad opened up this isolated part of West Virginia, making it possible to ship coal to the outside world. Mining boomed, and towns like Thurmond sprang up overnight near the coalfields and along the railroad. 

In 1978 Congress established New River Gorge National River to preserve this free-flowing waterway. Every year, millions of visitors come here for recreation and natural scenery. Within the park the New’s elevation drops 750 feet in 50 miles, creating one of the nation’s premier whitewater stretches.

Less known, but no less important, is the amazing diversity of plants and animals, including some 1,400 plant species. Endangered species like the Virginia big eared and Indiana bats live in forests and even old buildings. In a world of ever-dwindling natural habitat, migrating neotropical birds depend on this protected place for breeding.

Gauley River National Recreation Area, established in 1988, includes 25 miles of the Gauley River and 5 miles of the Meadow River. The Gauley is ranked among the best whitewater rivers in the world by expert boaters. Dropping more than 668 feet through rugged terrain, the river’s complex stretch of whitewater has over 100 rapids with a steep gradient, technical runs, high volume of water, and huge waves. The Gauley offers whitewater boating, fishing, camping, hunting, and picnicking. Immediately adjacent to the recreation area is Summersville Dam, which regulates the flow of the Gauley River, the source of its outstanding fall whitewater season.

Bluestone National Scenic River. The Bluestone River, named for the deep blue limestone riverbed of its upper reaches, has carved a gorge 1,000 feet deep near where it meets the New River. Hundreds of species thrive in several diverse Appalachian habitats. The Bluestone Turnpike, a riverbank road for those who farmed and timbered the area, is now a trail used by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders to reach this remote, undeveloped park. The national scenic river was established in 1988.

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Tales of Three Rivers in Photos

Description: Eight photos on side one of the brochure are described in this section.

  1. Photo description: A helmeted kayaker grips his paddle with both hands, which are raised above his left shoulder. Most of his turquoise kayak is pointed upwards and in the air at a slant as he breaks through a rapid. He is surrounded by white water, which also splashes upwards into the surrounding air. He narrowly misses a large boulder that is also to his left. Photo credit: John Dengler  
  2. Photo caption: Floating the Bluestone. Photo description: The calm Bluestone River flows through a deep, forested gorge. Under a clear blue sky, two kayakers in bright red kayaks paddle on the river. They are in contrast with the green water, which is reflecting the lush, green, deciduous trees along the river’s banks and the tall mountain behind them. Photo credit: National Park Service, Billy Strasser 
  3. Photo caption: Sandstone Falls. Photo description: Water plummets from the foreground and background into a large mist-filled basin in the center of the photo. The large waterfall is horseshoe-shaped with the basin in the center of the "U", the waterfall spans the width of the wide river. Above the falls, water cascades over a series of rock shelves. Dark, forested mountains rise in the background. Photo credit: Mark Muse.  
  4. Photo caption: Scarlet Tanager. Photo description: A scarlet-red songbird stands in profile. It has a red head and body. Its wings and tail are black and it has a pointy grey beak. Because it is in profile, only one of its black eyes is seen. Photo credit: Terry Sohl 
  5. Photo caption: Thurmond Historic District. Photo description: A creamy yellow, two story train depot sits at the corner of a railroad crossing on a narrow road on a cloudy winter day. The yellow building stands in contrast to the grey mountains behind it. A warm yellow glow comes from lighted windows on the first floor of the building and lights in three areas on the depot porch. In the foreground are three sets of railroad tracks and a railroad crossing sign with lights. Photo credit: National Park Service, Gary Hartley 
  6. Photo caption: Mountain laurel. Photo description: A cone-shaped cluster of white, five pedaled flowers and flower buds with pink accents sits on five elongated, straight edged, waxy, dark green leaves. Photo credit: National Park Service, Gary Hartley  
  7. Photo caption: Abandoned mining structure in Nuttallburg. Photo description: An abandoned, rust colored, metal structure raised on steel posts sits over an abandoned railroad track. A stone wall and steel railing separate the tracks from a grassy bank leading up to a green deciduous forest. Sunlight filtering through the trees projects the silhouette of the surrounding forest on the face of the building. Photo credit: Louise McLaughlin  
  8. Photo caption: Great blue heron. Photo description: An “S” curved neck and head of a large great blue heron bird extend to an amber colored, spear-like beak. Its pale head is topped with a navy blue cap. Blue-gray plumage covers the bird’s long neck while its yellow eye is framed by white. 

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On and Off the Water

Description: The text of four activities follows. Under its own heading, are descriptions of associated photos and their captions.

  1. Boating: The New is a big, powerful river, but always runnable to experts. The Lower Gorge has some of the most technical rapids, ranging in difficulty from Class 3 to 5. Licensed outfitters run trips April through October. For details on logistics and conditions, visit 
  2. Fishing: Catch walleye, muskellunge, crappie, bluegill, carp, catfish, and several kinds of bass in the warm waters of the New River. West Virginia fishing license required. 
  3. Hiking:Trails range from a quarter mile to seven miles and difficulty varies from flat, smooth walking to steep challenging terrain. Visitor centers have trail maps.
  4. Climbing: Hard sandstone cliffs at New River Gorge range from 30 to 120 feet high. There are over 1,400 established routes, most are rated 5.9 or higher and require climbing expertise.

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On and Off the Water in Photos

Description: Four photos depicting activities and outdoor areas are described.  

  1. Photo caption: Biking on the Arrowhead Trail. Photo description: A young boy walks his bike on a forested trail while his mother is stopped on her bike looking back towards him. They are both dressed in athletic wear with shorts and bike helmets. Sunlight filters through the green trees above them. Photo credit: Ari Wilde, Weld  
  2. Photo caption: Climbing at Bridge Buttress. Photo description: A teenager is harnessed to a rope. She wears a helmet, gloves, t-shirt and jeans. With a stiff body and her eyes fixed on the rope, she leans back over a cliff edge overlooking a deep, forested, green gorge spanned by an arch bridge. A second woman is bending forward, looking towards the climber and holding the other end of the rope that extends out of the photo. Photo credit: National Park Service, Gary Hartley  
  3. Photo caption: Waterfall on Dowdy Creek. Photo description: Two narrow streams of water plummet off a crescent-shaped, overhanging cliff into a placid, emerald green pool of water. The water in the falls is blurred. The dark brown rock that forms the cliff is layered on the top, while smoother below. At the base of the cliff, the rock has crumbled into many small reddish-brown rocks that surround the pool. A dense, green deciduous forest frames the cliff and the pool. Photo credit: National Park Service, Gary Hartley  
  4. Photo caption: Paddling on the New River. Photo description: Two women wearing ball caps and life jackets paddle a pontoon raft on the calm, green river. Their image is reflected on the water. A green, deciduous forest surrounds the river. In the foreground, green leaves hang down over the water and sunlight filters through the branches. Photo credit: National Park Service, Gary Hartley   

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The New River Gorge Bridge

Text: Spanning the New River near Fayetteville is the New River Gorge Bridge. At 876 feet, it is the third-highest in the country.

Photo description: A long, rust-colored, steel, single arch bridge spans a wide, deep gorge, connecting the flat topped ridges on either side. Several barely discernible trucks, level with the ridgetops in the distance are driving along the horizon, emphasizing the enormous size and height of the bridge. A wide, “S” shaped river with rapids flows below the bridge. At the bottom of the gorge, a second, small bridge can be seen in the distance. Railroad tracks run alongside both sides of the river. The gorge is covered in dense green forest speckled with early autumn shades of red, orange, and yellow. Above, pink sunlight is reflected in blue grey clouds against a light blue sky. A single whitish-grey rock cliff peaks out of the forest on the side of the gorge.

Photo credit: National Park Service, Gary Hartley

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Exploring New River Gorge

Description: At the top of side two of the brochure is more information about things to do within and outside of the park. Please also see the information under the “Map” heading to get a sense of the area.

  1. Visitor Centers: Canyon Rim and Sandstone visitor centers have information, exhibits, program schedules, bookstores, and picnic areas. Both are open year-round except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. 
  2. Thurmond Historic District: In the early nineteen hundreds this coal boomtown generated the most freight revenue on the C and O Railway. The restored 1904 depot is a park visitor center, open seasonally. 
  3. Grandview: Grandview is known for its scenic overlooks and trails, spring rhododendron displays, and outdoor theater. Visitor center open seasonally. 
  4. Sandstone Falls: A fully accessible boardwalk leads to river-level views of the largest falls on the New River, which span 1,500 feet. 
  5. Trails: Trails go to old coal towns, waterfalls, geological formations, and views of the gorge. Many trails allow mountain biking and horseback riding. Some property within the park is privately owned. Please respect the owners’ rights. Beware of decaying structures and industrial remains. 
  6. River Recreation: Licensed outfitters run river trips April through October. Ask at a visitor center or call 800-C A L L W V A, (800 2 2 5 5 9 8 2). The New also has some of the best fishing in the state, West Virginia fishing license required. Bluestone National Scenic River, south of Hinton, protects a pristine area of the Bluestone River. Gauley River National Recreation Area is north of Canyon Rim Visitor Center. The Gauley is known for its rugged beauty, whitewater, and superb fishing. 
  7. State Parks: Within or near the park are seven West Virginia state parks. Carnifex Ferry Battlefield, Hawks Nest, Babcock, Little Beaver, Bluestone, Camp Creek, and Pipestem Resort. Call the West Virginia Division of Tourism, 800- C A L L W V A, (800 2 2 5 5 9 8 2),  w w w dot go t o w v dot com 
  8. Trains: C S X Transportation owns and operates 70 miles of rails within the park. An Amtrak passenger train, the Cardinal, travels the gorge regularly. For information call 800-USA RAIL, (800 8 7 2 7 2 4 5). Trespassing on CSX tracks or access roads is dangerous and is strictly prohibited. 

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Park Map

Map description: Most of side two of the brochure is a map of New River Gorge National River. It shows the entire park including paved and unpaved roads, trails, ranger stations, picnic areas, parking, campgrounds, overlooks, and boat launches. The map is oriented with North at the top and includes New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Recreation Area, and Bluestone National Scenic River.

New River Gorge National River is an elongated area approximately 70,000 acres and bordered by state parks and private land areas. The boundaries of the park follow the course of the New River for 53 miles from south to north. The town of Hinton is the southern gateway to the park. Traveling north are Akers, Brooks Falls and Tug Creek, which have public access to the river, then two overlooks and then Sandstone Falls where there is picnicking and public access to the river. The Sandstone Visitor Center is close by. The town of Beckley is about 20 miles due west. Also north of Sandstone Falls is Meadow Creek, where there is public access to the river.

Continuing is a northwesterly direction and following the shape of the river, are a number of campgrounds, primitive camping, picnicking and public access points to the river. The seasonal visitor centers at Grandview and Thurmond are located in this center section of the map and the park. Also in this area are the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, (Boy Scouts of America), and the Babcock State Park. This state park has lodging, picnicking and campground options.

The river begins to travel in a more north-south direction in this center portion of the park. Still heading north and in the northern portion of the park are the Kaymoor and Nuttalburg mine sites and the close by town of Fayetteville. North of these sites is the Canyon Rim Visitor Center where there is an overlook and picnicking. The New River Gorge Bridge is close by.

Gauley River National Recreation Area is north of the park and at the top of the map. It stretches from east to west and follows 25 miles of the Gauley River. River rapids are identified all along the New and Gauley rivers.

South of park and the town of Hinton is Bluestone National Scenic River, which follows the Bluestone River northeasterly for ten and a half miles. Also in the area are Bluestone State Park and Pipestem Resort State Park, both of which have lodging, picnicking, public access to the river and campgrounds.

Major highways bisecting the park include I-64 from east to west and Route 19 from north to south.

Map credit: National Park Service

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  • Stay safe and protect the park. 
  • Federal law protects all natural and cultural features in the park.
  • Do not disturb or collect wildlife or historic objects. 
  • Wear a life vest or personal floatation device while on the water.
  • For a full list of park regulations, including firearms information, visit the park website.

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More Information

  • New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River, and Gauley River National Recreation Area are three of over 400 parks in the National Park System. For information visit 
  • Address: New River Gorge National River, PO Box 246, Glen Jean, West Virginia, 2 5 8 4 6 
  • Phone: 304-465-0508 
  • (Bluestone) 
  • (Gauley)
  • Area Information : Visit Southern West Virginia; 800-847-4898; 

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We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For more information, ask a ranger, call us, or visit the park website.

Note: See the heading "Exploring New River Gorge," where Sandstone Falls is noted as a physically accessible boardwalk experience. 

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