When You Give to the New River, It Gives Back

Self-Care and Caring for the Park at New River Gorge National River
Katherine RivardNPF Blog
New River Gorge Bridge

As one of the oldest rivers in the world, the unfittingly named New River is a wonder to explore. But don’t let its age fool you — old and boring are far from synonymous here.  This national park is loaded with opportunities to take care of yourself and the place you’ll quickly come to love. From mountain biking to whitewater rafting, New River Gorge National River’s natural features make it an ideal site for outdoor sports, including tackling any of its over 1,400 established rock climbs.  

Getting Fit through Guided Programs

The Active Southern West Virginia group standing outside at the New River Gorge National River for a Get Active in the Park training

The Active Southern West Virginia group training to lead a Get Active in the Park program at the New River Gorge National River

National Park Service

Beyond outdoor sports you can enjoy on your own, the park hosts programs that promote parks as places for health and wellness, funded by an Active Trails grant from the National Park Foundation. The program, called Get Active in the Park, trains local volunteers on the sport or hobby of their choice. They are then able to teach free classes to the public within the park. Classes range from rock climbing, paddle boarding, and trail running to more relaxing activities like yoga and tai chi.

Programs change with the season and are an awesome (and cost effective) way to stay fit and active while visiting the park! In winter, prevent your body from going into hibernation mode by joining cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Perhaps one of the most unique activities to date was a Group Cat Hike – a favorite among felines and their owners alike.  

Best of all, the volunteers who run the programs are enthusiasts who want to share their sport with others in their free time. This neighbor-teaching-neighbor method means that there’s no fear of not being “fit enough” or not knowing enough before you try a new class. Everyone started somewhere, and you can count on approachable guides who are excited for you to give their class a try!  

For updated information, check out the program’s Facebook page or head to the park’s site for a listing of classes. Meanwhile, those who have already found their favorite park activity, may want to volunteer in a new capacity in order that others also have the chance to enjoy the park for years to come.

Volunteering in the Park

A woman wearing a "Conservation Begins Here" t-shirt standing next to a Park Ranger boat at the New River Gorge National River
National Park Service

There are numerous ways to give back to the park. The volunteer opportunity at New River Gorge that works best for you will depend on your skillset and amount of available time. 


Agreeing to adopt a trail involves a 1-year commitment to patrolling your trail at least 4 times throughout the year. This means picking up litter, clearing the path of debris and encroaching vegetation, keeping drainage systems clean, and ultimately reporting back after each check in. This opportunity is perfect for anyone who already enjoys travelling along a certain trail.  

Ecological Work

A group of volunteers in waders and with long rubber gloves knee-deep in the New River Gorge National River volunteering with the Long Term Ecological Monitoring System

Volunteering with the Long Term Ecological Monitoring System

National Park Service

A full day’s work, beginning at 7 a.m., is asked of volunteers helping with the Long Term Ecological Monitoring System. Clad in chest waders, a life jacket, shoulder length gloves, and other additional protective gear, volunteers wade into the waters to electrofish, netting fish and collecting their data. Meanwhile, others assist in collecting aquatic invertebrate by gathering samples of invertebrate, algae and plants at each river station. The opportunities allow visitors to take an active role in contributing to the flourishing of the river’s ecosystem. 

Miscellaneous Opportunities

For even more opportunities to give back, check out the ever-changing list of current volunteer openings. These vary wildly in nature, from helping to remove graffiti to conducting oral history interviews to assisting in the visitor center.  

In southern West Virginia, you’ll find free programs offered in New Gorge River National River that are a great way to get moving and get outdoors. Visitors interested in volunteering at the park can find a multitude of ways to give back while also exploring the many ways to improve their health. Discover a new sport you love and ensure that others experience the park that helped you find it when you #FindYourPark at this friendly river park!

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