New River Gorge

Written by Serena Berger
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The New River Gorge was established as a National River in 1978 to ensure conservation of this beautiful and historic region of West Virginia. Near Charleston, the state capital, the New River joins with the Gauley River to form the Manawha River, after which the state was almost named, which shows how crucial rivers and mountains are to the West Virginia identity. Today, thousands of people travel each year to New River Gorge to enjoy incredible scenery and fantastic outdoor sports.

The Upper and Lower New River Gorge

One of the most popular sports here is whitewater rafting or kayaking. If you are considering trying whitewater, the division of the River into the Upper New and Lower New becomes very important. Depending on your experience level and the season, these two parts of the river can supply very different adventure vacation alternatives.

The Upper New River offers gentle-to-moderate whitewater, from Class I to Class III. This means families, school-aged children, and all generations are likely to be able to handle the water. In the summer, the water warms up to about 80 degrees, which means if you fall in (or choose to jump in!), it will be quite pleasant ... and your boat won't be going so fast as to leave you behind.

The Lower New River has much more diverse and sometimes intense whitewater. During the spring, runoff combines with the steeper gradient of the Lower New River Gorge to provide Class V rapids; but in the summer, the difficulty diminishes. If you are thinking of enjoying whitewater on the New River, you can also count on beautiful scenery and great camping or comfortable resorts in which to relax after your days of outdoor adventuring.


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