New River in Laurel Springs, North Carolina, is believed to be one of the oldest rivers in the U.S. and possibly one of the oldest rivers in the world. Its history began over 360 million years ago when it carved its way through the landscape of North America. The New River starts in South Carolina and flows into the Mississippi River. In 1965 when the Appalachian Power Company applied for a license to build a dam on the New River, local opposition led to the land surrounding New River becoming a state park in 1975. The North Carolina Assembly and the United States Congress declared the river to be a part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. The distinction prevented the establishment of dams and reservoirs on the river, helping to maintain its natural flow.
New River State Park has 2,911 acres for you to explore with your family and friends. The main attraction of the park is the river with many water activities like swimming and fishing for the whole family to enjoy. You can rent a canoe or paddleboard and travel along all 26.5 miles of the river to observe the different plants and animals that call this place their home. The park has seven hiking trails ranging from easy to moderate level difficulty and a paved trail that’s ADA accessible. Each year, the campgrounds open to welcome new RV campers looking to having a relaxing time on the water.
There are two campgrounds, but only one is for RV camping. The other campground can only be accessed by canoe or paddleboard. There are over 40 campsites available with the option of full hookups, electric-only hookups, or non-electric sites, so you know that you’ll be taken care of when you bring your RV to New River State Park.
RV Rentals in New River State Park
Transportation in New River State Park
New River State Park has four access points, one on Wagoner Road Access located at River Mile 26, one on US-221 Access located at River Mile 15, King Creeks Access located at River Mile 7, and Alleghany Access at River Mile 1, which may only be reached by canoe or paddleboard. If you are traveling east or west from I-40, you can take US-221 through Jefferson County, and it will lead you to the entrance located on your right before crossing over the New River. If you are coming from I-77, you will have to travel on US-421 N to US-221. A short drive through Jefferson will lead you to the entrance of the park on the right before crossing the river.
To get to the Wagoner Access Area or the Kings Creek Access Area, you will need to travel to Wagoner or Kings Creek road, respectively. The Alleghany County Access Area is only accessible by canoes. There are several cities in the surrounding areas where you can pick up groceries or go out to dinner. Scottville and Nathans Creek are great places to learn about the history of the state or just to wander around the shopping districts.
While there are four entry points to the park, Wagoner and US-221 are the main access points. US-221 Access Area leads to the park’s store and headquarters. The park is closed late at night and does not open until the morning. If you are arriving later than anticipated, the gates to the park will not open, unless it is an emergency. Granted, there are a few staff members and rangers that will let you in if you call ahead of time. You may use a bike or walk around the park, as all other vehicles are prohibited from being on the trails. In the event of inclement weather, the park may close and the paddle-in campsite will close as well. The park will also close if the water levels at the river campground become a safety hazard.
Campgrounds and parking in New River State Park
Campsites in New River State Park
Wagoner Access Area
The Wagoner Access Area is available for walk-in or paddle-in only tent camping. A group site is available that can accommodate up to 35 people. Amenities include hot showers and bathrooms.
US- 221 Access Campground
This area has both paddle-in and drive-in sites. There are 14 paddle-in sites and a group site with potable drinking water. Twenty sites are available for either tent or RV use, ten with electric only, and ten with full hookups. There is also a dump station nearby, as well as potable water. Amenities included are picnic tables, a fire ring, a grill, restrooms, and hot showers. The largest site can fit up to a 67-foot trailer or RV. You are prohibited from bringing your own firewood or collecting it from your surrounding camp area. You can buy some at the park office for a low price and must burn all firewood before you leave the park. Reservations cannot be longer than 14 days at a time and can be made up to 11 months in advance.
River Bend and Alleghany Campgrounds
These campgrounds are paddle-in only. River Bend has four primitive campsites and Alleghany Campground has eight primitive sites and one group site. These sites are equipped with a pit toilet and drinking water and all trash must be packed out.
One of the prettiest places east of the Mississippi, Boone KOA perfectly blends nature and comfort with tall trees, walking trails, a mini farm animal zoo and a miniature golf course. Just four miles from city services, you can enjoy a remote experience with all the comforts of home. pull-through sites with 50-amps of power, a seasonal swimming pool, and arcade games round out this amazing camping experience. Outside of the campground explore the Blue Ridge Mountains and Parkway scenic drive or enjoy tubing or canoeing on the nearby, New River.
Seasonal activities in New River State Park
Rather than booking a river tour, you may want to strike out on your own in a canoe or a kayak if you are an experienced paddler. Paddling can be lots of fun with a partner, or you can set out on a relaxing canoe ride for a lazy afternoon. If you want an exciting ride with a touch of rapids, take a trip in May or June when the water is high. September and October will have lower water levels for a more relaxing float trip. Paddleboard, canoe, and kayak rentals are available from several local businesses if you don't have your own, but make sure you have a life vest for everyone on board.
New River is known for its abundant variety and quantity of fish. You will need a valid fishing license if you are over the age of 17 to go fishing along the river. You may fish from a boat or the fishing pier as long as you have the right equipment. If you forgot to pack your rod or bait in the RV before you left, then you can pick some up at the stores in town. The park’s staff can fill you in on the best places to catch bass and crappie. Some of the other fish you may come across are muskellunge, rainbow, and brown trout. In the spring, you can catch rockfish as they make their way upstream.
Taking a River Tour
During the peak season, you can schedule a tour to explore the river with the help of an expert guide from local businesses in the area. You may take a tubing excursion, take a canoe on the river, or take a paddleboard tour. Rentals are available for a small price, and children under 12 may ride for free if two paying adults accompany them. Remember to wear sunscreen and leave all electronics back at the rig to prevent water damage to your precious devices.
The park has a swimming area for you to relax and soak up the sun, or just relax on the beach and read a good book. Pets are not allowed in the swimming area, but they are allowed on the trails. Depending on the time of year, a lifeguard may not be available, so it is recommended that you pay close attention to your children and your surroundings. Please clean up after yourself if you bring food with you and remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and lather yourself with ample sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
North Carolina is full of wildlife, and along the river is an excellent place to catch sight of some fascinating creatures, including various amphibians such as American toads, cricket frogs, northern spring peepers, and salamanders. Guests to the park are often delighted to see northern river otters and other mammals such as opossums, beavers, foxes, and even black bears. You can get a checklist of wildlife native to New River State Park online. Print it out, grab a pencil, and don't forget your camera as you head out to see how many you can spot.
Visiting the Nature Center
New River State Park comes with its own Nature and Interpretive Center. Here, you can learn about all the plants and animals that call the park home. Rangers lead programs describing how animals interact with their environment, and they tell park guests the best ways for protecting natural resources. The Nature Center is open year-round but has shorter hours in the winter than in the summer when the park is busier. Exploring the ecosystem of New River State Park is available for all ages. You may want to bring a camera and a notepad to capture these incredible moments.
New River State Park is a great place to hike and see nature while never losing sight of the water. There are seven trails that you can hike, ranging from easy to moderate level difficulty. If you want a challenge, then you should check out the River Run Trail. The trail weaves through the forest and leads you to one of the river’s access points. For a more relaxing approach, you can take the Dogwood Trail, which is ADA friendly and located behind the picnic area. You are allowed to take your pet on the trails, but be sure to keep it on a leash. You may want to pack a pair of sturdy hiking boots and sunscreen if you plan on tackling the trails on your next visit to New River State Park.
The serenity of New River State Park is the perfect venue for a lazy afternoon picnic, especially in the fall when the leaves are just starting to change, but it's not yet too chilly. Each of the four access areas in the park has a picnic area. Wagoner Road Access Area has a sheltered area with 10 picnic tables, a grill, and a fire pit. There are restrooms and drinking fountains located near the park’s office. This area also has a set of 13 picnic tables in a grove of apple trees with two grills and plenty of shade. You may reserve a picnic area for a special event by calling the main office. Each picnic area has a bathroom nearby and usually follows the first-come, first-served rule.