The USA is home to some pretty spectacular national parks, and now there’s a whole new reserve for intrepid explorers to add to the bucket list.
The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia has become the 63rd national park in the US and boasts everything from a whitewater river to awe-inspiring canyons, lush green forests and even some ghost towns.
It became a new national park in law as part of a wider pandemic relief package from the US government in 2020.
The New River Gorge National River park was actually established in 1978, and covers approximately 70,000 acres of land along the 53-mile New River.
Despite its name, the New River is actually one of the oldest on Earth and is estimated to be between 3 and 320 million years old (a seriously wide window, we know, but geologists can’t agree between them).
Unsurprisingly, the national park boasts breathtaking natural landscapes, including the deepest and longest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountain (which the river continues to carve).
Then there are the sprawling forests with oak and hardwood trees, and the diverse array of wildlife including red foxes, bald eagles, falcons, white-tailed deer, beavers, otters and snakes.
There are of course some places that have long been in a hit with visitors; Sandstone Falls is one of them. Located where the river is around 1,500ft wide, the falls are divided into a series of islands and make for a pretty spectacular view. There are some scenic drives to be found in the area – or for the more adventurous, some beautiful hiking trails.
However, this national park isn’t all about the beautiful nature (even if there is plenty of it). The region boasts a rich history of coal mining and logging industries, and there are plenty of ghost towns to be found with coal mine entrances, foundations of homes and buildings and railroad tracks.
One particular highlight is the ghost town of Thurmond, one of our picks of the best ghost towns in America.
Then of course there’s the River Gorge Bridge, a large steel arch bridge which was built in 1977. It’s said to be one of the most photographed landmarks in Virginia, and is on the USA’s National Register of Historic Places as a significant historic resource.
We know that travel to the US isn’t on the cards at the moment due to ongoing restrictions due to the pandemic, but it doesn’t hurt to dream about future travels.
The silver lining? The UK itself boasts 15 beautiful national parks with rolling green hills, enchanting woodlands, impressive lakes and plenty more, so if you’re sticking to staycations when lockdowns end, there are plenty of breathtaking spots to bookmark for getaways in 2021.
(You can check the Foreign Office’s latest USA travel advice for the latest updates and any entry requirements during the pandemic).