The New River is one of world’s oldest river systems, second only to the Nile. But every year thousands of first-time rafters have a “New” experience that leaves them forever hooked on whitewater rafting. Folks return year after year. Many who rafted here in the ’70s come back – as do their children and grandchildren – generation after generation having its first taste of white water on one of the most popular rafting rivers in the Eastern United States. From family float and duckie trips for novice rafters (Class II – III) on the Upper sections to exciting white water adventures in the Lower gorge (Class IV – V), this River can be enjoyed by almost anyone.
The New is a special river flowing through a spectacular wilderness. Early rafters worked hard to ensure it would remain so forever. In I978, it was designated a National River adding it to the National Park system which spared it from the threat of hydroelectric dams. In 1998, it was named one of 14 American Heritage Rivers, recognizing the New River Gorge’s wealth of history and folklore. When the 20th century was young, the gorge rang with the sounds of timbering and coal mining and the rumble of trains carrying these riches to faraway cities. The effect on the canyon was devastating, but time has restored the wilderness to its primordial beauty and few traces remain of man’s tenure here.
Whether you’re casting a lure into a riffle near the river bank or plying a paddle as your raft lurches through a cauldron of white water, there are intermittent quiet pools, inviting you to drift a bit and admire the beauty that surrounds you. Consider extending your stay to experience a multi-day overnight on the Upper and Lower section for an outstanding river adventure. Outfitters take care of planning and logistics so you can experience a classic overnight river trip without the hassles.
Rising from springs in the mountains of North Carolina, the river flows north, drawing strength from tributaries until it enters the New River Gorge. Over time – perhaps as much as 300 million years – the river carved its way through layers of sedimentary rock. Today the river bed lies 700 to 1,300 feet below the rim.
The “Grand Canyon of the East” is nothing like its barren namesake, for it is clothed in a lush deciduous forest which shelters a variety of wildlife. The river is raftable from spring to late fall, so visitors are treated to ever-changing water levels and foliage in the gorge. This high-volume river courses through a narrow canyon and drops 240 feet in one 14-mile stretch. This creates friction against the rocky bottom and sides, and generates the big, oscillating waves rafters crave. The gorge is strewn with boulders that have withstood the torrent’s assault, so the water is channeled in many ways at once – dipping, dodging and diving through rapids with names such as Surprise, the Keeney’s, Double Z, Bloody Nose and Thread the Needle. If you don’t get wet enough in this moving water battle, there are opportunities to take the plunge from Jump Rock, or float through Swimmers Rapid. Over time you’ll come to know the rapids by heart, and look forward to your next adventure in West Virginia.