• sun setting over the gorge

    New River Gorge

    National River West Virginia

There are park alerts in effect.
show Alerts »
  • River Detours and Closures at the Thomas Buford Pugh Memorial Bridge

    The WV Department of Highways and the Federal Highways Administration is replacing the Thomas Buford Pugh Memorial Bridge on Route 41 in the town of Prince. Construction will require temporary full river traffic closures and long term river detours. More »

Water Safety

two young visitors with water safety tee shirts

Boys were awarded T-shirts for wearing life-jackets at New River Gorge

NPS photo/David Caldwell

Enjoy the New River safely, but do not underestimate its power. The New River is a high volume river with swift currents, deep holes, and a rocky bottom. The water levels change daily and what may thought of as safe today, may not be as safe tomorrow. Your safety while in, on, or around the New River is our concern. We suggest these water safety reminders during your visit:

All Water Activities :
Everyone should wear a personal flotation device (PFD or lifejacket) anytime you are enjoying one of the New River's activities. Most drownings in the New River involve people who didn't plan on being in the water. Life jackets save lives.

Do not leave children unattended. They often don't recognize danger. Young children can drown in relatively shallow water.

Always wear sturdy shoes. There are sharp objects in the water that will cut bare feet.

Approximately half of all boating and swimming deaths involve alcohol. Alcohol and river activities do not mix.

Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat even on cloudy days.

Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water.

In the event of severe weather, such as strong winds and lightning, get away from the river as soon as possible and seek shelter.

There are drop-offs, strong currents, and hydraulics (undertows) all along the New River.

Do not swim or boat alone.

Exposure to cool air and cold water can lead to hypothermia even when temperatures are above freezing.

Travel together. There is safety in numbers.

Be safe on shore. Accidents often happen to anglers, waders, and "rock-hoppers."


Boating:
Know your skill level. Whitewater boating requires special skills and abilities. Be cautious and use the section of the river that best matches your skill.

Know the conditions. The river changes dramatically with different water levels. What is safe at one level can be hazardous at another. Be alert for changes in the weather.

Plan your trip. Know your put-in and take-out points before you begin. Tell someone your plans.

Load your boat properly. Secure equipment to prevent shifting. Carry a first aid kit.

If you are boating always scout ahead because rapids and unmarked hazards can occur at any time.

Avoid overhanging tree limbs and downed trees, they can overturn and trap boats.

Learn how to read the river. Follow the smooth water shaped "V" that points down stream. Water ripples indicate that rocks are lying close to the surface.

If you capsize, stay upstream of your boat and swim toward shore. Currents push against your boat that can trap you and hold you underwater. If you capsize in rapids, stay on your back with your feet pointed downstream while your life jacket keeps you afloat, until you have an opportunity to swim toward shore.


River Etiquette :
What you pack in, pack out. Help keep the New River clean. Dispose of trash properly.

Be health conscious. Human waste should not be left within 100 feet of the river or other water, and should be buried at least six inches deep.

Respect the rights of private property owners.


Did You Know?

BASE Jumper at New River Gorge

One day each year, hundreds of BASE (Building, Antenna, Span, and Earth) jumpers come to New River Gorge to parachute from the New River Gorge Bridge.