new river gorge
Photo credit: bobistraveling

Congress Poised to Create 63rd National Park

In the face of so much drama plaguing 2020, America prepares to welcome its newest national park — and the first in West Virginia.

Congress’ year-end legislative package includes funds for COVID-19 relief and climate legislation, but also an important national parks designation. The New River Gorge National Park and Preservation Designation Act in the package designates the New River Gorge area in West Virginia to become America’s 63rd national park.

According to U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), the legislation would redesignate the New River Gorge National River as the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia’s WBOY TV reported.

“The New River Gorge is such an important part of West Virginia and a real source of pride in our state. I am thrilled legislation redesignating the National River as a National Park and Preserve is included in this legislative package. Redesignation of the National River to a National Park and Preserve will shine a brighter light on West Virginia and all that it has to offer,” Senator Moore Capito wrote.

The two U.S. senators originally introduced the New River Gorge Park and Preserve Designation Act in October 2019.

The NPS currently manages 62 parks and over 400 sites and monuments across 29 states. The New River Gorge will be West Virginia’s first national park. The next closest national park is Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

The designation becomes official when President Trump signs the legislative package into law, which is expected to happen this week.

More About the New River Gorge

The New River Gorge area is home to a national river, a national scenic byway, and the New River Gorge Bridge, the world’s second-longest single-arch steel span.

The area is roughly 600 square miles. It’s home to over 35 trails and free camping and sits adjacent to two West Virginia state parks — although the main draw is the historic bridge and the expansive river and scenery.

new river gorge bridge in WV

Built in 1974, the New River Gorge Bridge spans over 3,000 feet and connects the east and west banks of the river. Encircling the New River Gorge National River area is the 83-mile scenic byway, another attraction for the park. The route travels over interstates, divided highways, and two-lane connector roads, with plenty of views of the gorge and river.

Learn more about the New River Gorge here.

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Mary Murphy
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Mary is based out of GearJunkie's Denver, CO office. She has a degree in English and Journalism, and been writing professionally for over four years. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.