New River Gorge National Park and Preserve includes 53 miles of free-flowing New River, beginning at Bluestone Dam and ending at Hawks Nest Lake. The New River typifies big West Virginia style whitewater.
Within the park it has two very different characters. The upper (southern) part of the river consists primarily of long pools, and relatively easy rapids up to Class III. It is a big powerful river, but very beautiful, always runnable, and providing excellent fishing and camping. There are a number of different river access points, and trips can run from several hours to several days.
The New River is a rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons and is among the oldest rivers on the continent. The park encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
The lower (northern) section of river is often referred to as “the Lower Gorge.” In a state that is justifiably renowned for colossal rapids, the Lower Gorge has some of the biggest of the big with rapids ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V. The rapids are imposing and forceful, many of them obstructed by large boulders which necessitate maneuvering in very powerful currents, crosscurrents, and hydraulics. Some rapids contain hazardous undercut rocks.
Running whitewater rivers is inherently risky. Prior to putting on a river, individual trip participants must recognize and assume responsibility for the attendant dangers, which include — but are not limited to — possible loss of life. Before attempting any river, paddlers should satisfy themselves that every person in their group understands the inherent risks of river running, freely assumes responsibility for their own safety, and possesses the necessary skill and prior experience to reasonably ensure a safe trip.