New River Gorge National Park and Preserve tourist season heats up

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer season at Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center, where they’ve already seen some of their biggest spring break crowds.

District supervisor Dave Bieri says that’s the trend since redesignating as a national park and preserve.

“We’ve not only had a huge increase in visitation (parkwide in 2023 was 1.7 million) but a lot more people coming here as a destination, as opposed to somewhere they stopped going somewhere else,” said Bieri. “And that was really evident this year for spring break, where people had a week off of school with their kids and chose to come out here.”

Being a national park sets New River Gorge apart as someplace special.

“You go to Grand Canyon or you go to Yosemite or Yellowstone or Old Faithful before — you kind of know what you’re gonna find when you get there,” the district supervisor said. “But New River Gorge, aside from maybe seeing a picture of the bridge, people don’t really know what to expect when they get here, and they’re usually surprised at just how beautiful it is.”

When Bieri moved around with the park service early in his career he says he was always looking for green spots on the map.

“The local national parks, national forest, state parks, making sure there’s gonna be enough to keep you busy for a few years.”

At first, he thought he’d be here maybe five years, and 16 years later…

“I’m still here, and I still haven’t gotten through the list of all the things to do,” said Bieri. “Between the national park and there’s so many great state parks in the area, as well as a national forest — there’s just a ton of places to go out and enjoy the outdoors here.”


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