We don't blame you for not having paid attention to this, given the chaos that's ensued in the past few weeks, but we're here to celebrate the newest national park in the United States. Last month, both houses of Congress passed a bill that officially turned West Virginia's New River Gorge to a federally protected tourist destination, rendering it the 63rd national park in the country.
Curious nature lovers can read through Congress' designation act right here, but let us highlight some interesting facts about the beautiful destination: The area encompasses a whopping 70,000 acres that are divided into two sections. The first one is the park, which only takes up a relatively small 7,021 acres, and the second one is the preserve—65,165 acres where folks can fish and hunt legally.
But there's more: the park is primarily known for the 53 miles of free flowing whitewater through sandstone cliffs as high as 1,000 feet that call it home, which is why rock climbers and whitewater rafters love to visit.
"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," said Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, from West Virginia, in an official statement announcing the news. "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, and provide another catalyst for our tourism industry and local businesses."
The package that the senator is referring to is actually the COVID-19 relief bill that recently passed. Lest you think the combination of the two efforts is odd, remember that national parks are important tourism destinations. Creating a new federally protected space automatically grants it must-visit status, hopefully driving visitors to it and supporting the local community.
Before planning your trip to New River Gorge, we suggest you consult this list of free-entrance days across all of the country's national parks. Happy exploring!
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