Ironically, the New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world at 65-million years. In the 50 miles from Bluestone Dam to Gauley Bridge it falls 750 feet in elevation, meaning it is full of Class I to V rapids that attract whitewater rafters from around the world.
Bridge, scenic views, hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, free campgrounds
Canyon Rim Visitor Center offers information and great views of the New River Gorge Bridge. From there you can drive down the twisty road to the river. Most visitors come here for whitewater rafting, so you should consider hiring a guide to take you out.
The Endless Wall Trail makes a 3-mile loop trail that provides great views of the New River Gorge and the bridge, as well as access to some of the park’s 1,600 rock climbing routes.
Completed in 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge is the second longest single-steel span in the world. Highway 82 passes underneath where it rises 876 feet above the river.
Designated as the nation’s first National River by Congress in 1972, the free-flowing Buffalo River winds 135 miles across northern Arkansas. It is noted for its sandstone bluffs and tall waterfalls, as well as its three designated wilderness areas. Multiple concessionaires rent canoes and offer shuttle service for those who wish to float the river during the high spring flows. There are many hiking trails to be found in this National Park Service site and in the adjoining Ozark National Forest.
Steel Creek to Pruitt Landing is a 22-mile float through Class I rapids on the Buffalo River through the Ponca Wilderness past rock bluffs up to 500 feet tall. Wildflowers and birds abound in the spring, the only time the upper river is deep enough to float. Numerous outfitters provide rental gear, guides, and car shuttles.
A short 1.5-mile roundtrip hike from a river pulloff, Hemmed-In-Hollow is a 210-foot tall waterfall, also accessible on a much more strenuous trek starting on top of the bluff in Compton, Arkansas.
While not technically within the National River boundaries, Hawksbill Crag is an image that shows up on many tourism advertisements for Arkansas. Go in early November for fall colors.
The water flows best in the spring and is often not deep enough for paddlers in the river’s upper reaches other times of year.