Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center getting new look

With its stunning views of the New River Gorge and miles of whitewater, it only made sense to upgrade the canyon rim visitor’s center to match the natural beauty enveloping it.

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve district supervisor Dave Bieri says breathing new life into the space coincides with the redesignation from National River to National Park and Preserve. It has brought an influx of new visitors.

It’s been a four-year process. They worked with the exhibit designer planning the exhibits and fabricated. He says it’s exciting to see it finally come to fruition a conclusion.

“This visitor’s center went in back in 1990 and the exhibits that that’ve been in there were original to that time when the building was built,” Bieri said. “So it’s been a while since we’ve updated anything here. This is a complete overhaul, all-new exhibits, new flooring in the visitor’s center, new theater seating — really gonna be almost a brand-new building.”

The iconic Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is undergoing extensive renovations, including new exhibits. Sure to attract plenty of new visitors when it reopens tentatively in early March.

According to Bieri, when this all started they didn’t realize it would coincide with the redesignation from national river to national park and preserve. That happened when they were in the design phase, which he calls perfect timing. Since then they’ve seen a big increase in visitation.

“The new exhibits will not only feature new river gorge park and preserve but also the other parks that are lesser known that we manage here… Which would be Gauley National Recreation Area and Bluestone National Scenic River,” said the district supervisor. “There will be a little more about those parks as well.”

The upgrade is going to bring a fresh new look to things.

Bieri says it’s going to do a better job of interpreting the story. There are many stories to tell at New River Gorge, even in a building as big as this, they can’t tell them all. The idea is to orient people to the big themes.”

“Then tell people where to go to continue that story,” he said. “Interested in the coal mining story — you’ll get a little bit of what makes that important here and then you’ll find panels that will direct you to places like Kaymoor or Nuttalburg, where you can dive deeper.”

Whether you’ve just relocated or are passing through southern West Virginia on your travels, people are passionate about the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.

“We do recommend stopping here at the visitor’s center first because people come in here looking to get some more orientation,” the district supervisor said. “This is where to go to get your maps and your brochures and talk to a park ranger and find out where you want to go. But also if you’re new to the area just to get that big picture of why this place is a national park and what makes it unique and significant. That’s stuff that they’re going to get through these new exhibits.”

To have the breathtaking New River Gorge as his backdrop is everything.”I do consider myself really fortunate to be able to work in a place like this,” Bieri said.

“Especially since the redesignation, I see so many people that have never been to West Virginia before — look at them, look at that view and say, ‘wow, you’ve got such a beautiful state here.'”

* Though Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center is closed for the remodel, the site is still open to enjoy the overlooks and views of the gorge from the bridge.

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