Top 5 ways to celebrate 100 years of National Parks
On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service turns 100. What’s the perfect gift for a centennial birthday? Yourself!
Get out there and enjoy West Virginia’s National Parks! Here are a few ways you can celebrate:
1. Go fishing
You’ll find great fishing and plenty of public access points on the 3 rivers in the National Parks of Southern West Virginia. The New River is known for its wide variety of bass, as well as walleye, muskellunge, crappie, bluegill, carp, and flathead and channel catfish. The Gauley River is great for for trout, smallmouth bass, walleye and muskellunge, while the favored game fish on the Bluestone River are smallmouth bass, rock bass and bluegill.
Note: A West Virginia state fishing license is required.
2. Explore history
Drive the National Coal Heritage Trail, which runs through 13 counties in Southern West Virginia, encompassing the rich history of the state’s valuable natural resource. Stop at points of interest like:
- the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, where you can take a guided tour of an underground coal mine and experience what coal camp life was like in the early 20th century
- Historic Bramwell, once home to the most millionaires per capita in the U.S.
- Matewan Depot Replica Museum, detailing the area’s history of coal mining and feuding (Hatfield & McCoys.)
Visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to learn about John Brown’s raid– the spark that ignited the Civil War. Tour historic buildings, watch living history demonstrations and soak in the natural beauty of the overlook at Jefferson Rock, which was named after Thomas Jefferson, who stood on the rock Oct. 25, 1783, and later wrote of the experience in in his “Notes on the State of Virginia.” He described the view as “one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”
3. Paddle a river
Tackle world-class whitewater on the New and Gauley rivers. Rafting companies have guided tours ranging from beginner-friendly Class II-III rapids on the Upper New or heart-pounding waves up to Class IV+ on the Lower New or Gauley during the summer months.
For the ultimate adrenaline rush, try Gauley Season in the fall, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the Summersville Dam to create heart-pounding Class V+ whitewater on the world-renowned Upper Gauley. Several outfitters also have overnight trips, so you can camp alongside the river.
4. Climb a rock
The 63,000-acre New River Gorge National River boasts more than 1,400 established rock climbs, including the popular Endless Wall, a 5-mile length of unbroken cliff high above the river. Most of the routes are best for advanced or expert climbers, but several area outfitters will take newbies and intermediates on guided climbing and rappelling expeditions.
5. Take a hike
Take the 100-mile challenge! The National Park Service, Active Southern West Virginia and the YMCA of Southern WV are hosting the Hundred Mile Hiker challenge to celebrate the NPS’ centennial. Keep track of the miles you hike in the New River Gorge National River and Bluestone National Scenic River, and when you reach the magic number–100–you will earn a prize. The challenge runs through December 31, so there’s still plenty of time!
If you visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, plan a hike on a portion of the 2,180-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail that passes through the town. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitors’ Center is in Harpers Ferry. Stop in to pick up some maps, and you might even strike up a conversation with one of the many thru-hikers on their way to Maine or Georgia.