NPS Geodiversity Atlas—Gauley River National Recreation Area, West Virginia

Geodiversity refers to the full variety of natural geologic (rocks, minerals, sediments, fossils, landforms, and physical processes) and soil resources and processes that occur in the park. A product of the Geologic Resources Inventory, the NPS Geodiversity Atlas delivers information in support of education, Geoconservation, and integrated management of living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of the ecosystem.

gri report cover with park landscape photo
In-depth geologic information is contained in the baseline inventory products of the Geologic Resources Inventory, see table below.


Gauley River National Recreation Area (GARI) includes 41.0 km (25.5 mi) of the Gauley River and 8.9 km (5.5 mi) of the Meadow River in Fayette and Nicholas Counties, West Virginia. Established as an NPS park unit on October 26, 1988, GARI encompasses approximately 4,696 hectares (11,606 acres) of scenic river landscape that pass through gorges and valleys containing a wide variety of natural and cultural features (Anderson 2017). The Gauley River is one of the most adventurous whitewater boating rivers in the eastern United States and contains several Class V+ rapids. The region of both the Gauley and Meadow Rivers provides excellent opportunities for fishing, camping, and hiking.

Geologic Setting

The bedrock geology of GARI consists of Pennsylvanian-age (~325–300 million years ago) rocks of the New River, Kanawha, and Allegheny Formations. These geologic units were deposited in a variety of ancient fluvial to nearshore depositional environments in the Appalachian basin during the first of a series of mountain-building events (the Taconic Orogeny) that culminated in the construction of the Appalachian Mountains. Over the course of geologic time, the rivers of GARI have carved a spectacular landscape of rock-rimmed deep gorges, cascading waterfalls, stirring rapids, stunning vistas, and forested slopes (Thornberry-Ehrlich 2017). Downstream from Summersville Dam, the Gauley River drops more than 204 m (668 ft) and features over 100 rapids between alternating pools, boulders, and exposed bedrock to the national recreation area’s western boundary at Upper Swiss (Thornberry-Ehrlich 2017).

Regional Geology

Gauley River National Recreation Area is a part of the Appalachian Plateaus Physiographic Province and shares its geologic history and some characteristic geologic formations with a region that extends well beyond park boundaries.

Maps and Reports

The Geologic Resources Inventory produces digital geologic maps and reports for more than 270 natural resource parks. The products listed below are currently available for this park, check back often for updates as many maps, reports, and posters are still in progress.
  • Scoping summaries are records of scoping meetings where NPS staff and local geologists determined the park’s geologic mapping plan and what content should be included in the report.
  • Digital geologic maps include files for viewing in GIS software, a guide to using the data, and a document with ancillary map information. Newer products also include data viewable in Google Earth and online map services.
  • Reports use the maps to discuss the park’s setting and significance, notable geologic features and processes, geologic resource management issues, and geologic history.
  • Posters are a static view of the GIS data in PDF format. Newer posters include aerial imagery or shaded relief and other park information. They are also included with the reports.
  • Projects list basic information about the program and all products available for a park.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2872. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

NPS Soil Resources Inventory project has been completed for Gauley River National Recreation Area and can be found on the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2940. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

GRI Geology Image Gallery

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Gauley River National Recreation Area

National Park Service Geodiversity Atlas

The servicewide Geodiversity Atlas provides information on geoheritage and geodiversity resources and values within the National Park System. This information supports science-based geoconservation and interpretation in the NPS, as well as STEM education in schools, museums, and field camps. The NPS Geologic Resources Division and many parks work with National and International geoconservation communities to ensure that NPS abiotic resources are managed using the highest standards and best practices available.

Gauley River National Recreation Area

Last updated: June 20, 2024