News Release

Tourism to National Parks of Southern West Virginia Creates Over $64.2 Million in Economic Benefits

kayaker on the Bluestone River
kayaker on the Bluestone River


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News Release Date: May 10, 2018

Contact: Julena Campbell, 304-465-6523

Glen Jean, WV – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 1,319,420 visitors to New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River, and Gauley River National Recreation Area spent $56,289,700 in communities near the three parks in 2017. That spending supported 823 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economies of $64,220,300. The parks span four counties in southern West Virginia:  Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers.

“The three national parks of Southern West Virginia once again welcomed over 1.3 million visitors from across the country and around the world last year,” said Superintendent Lizzie Watts. “We are delighted to share the stories of these special places with so many people. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economies as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our many neighbors and are glad to be a part of helping to sustain local communities.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the NPS.  The report shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by more than 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally; 255,900 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the US economy was $35.8 billion.

The lodging sector received the highest direct contributions with $5.5 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 49,000 jobs. The restaurants sector received the next greatest direct contributions with $3.7 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 60,500 jobs.

According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging/camping (32.9 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.5 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.0 percent), and local transportation (7.5 percent).

Report authors also produce an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

To learn more about national parks in West Virginia and how the National Park Service works with West Virginia communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to

Last updated: May 11, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Gauley River National Recreation Area
P.O. Box 246

Glen Jean, WV 25846-0246


(304) 465-0508

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