Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources

Committee Chair

David Smaldone.


The New River Gorge National River (NERI) is managed by the National Park Service (NPS). In addition to being an extremely popular destination for whitewater rafting, it is also home to world class rock climbing and an extensive array of cliffs offering over 2400 routes. This thesis is part of a larger study of the cliffs at NERI, funded by the NPS and encompassing botanic and geologic components in addition to the recreation management component. By combining unobtrusive visitor observation methods with GPS mapping and rapid assessment of nearly 450 areas of impact, a few key management recommendations are made for NERI. Climbing routes closer to fixed top anchor points had a significantly skewed distribution toward more severe impact ratings. Climbers and hikers were found to have a significantly different length of stay, but no significant differences were found in number of depreciative behaviors or group size. The types of depreciative behaviors were different between both groups, and also different among different types of climbers. Potential management implications are discussed, and include suggestions to restrict the number and locations of fixed top anchors and bolted anchors in general, place limitations on areas where top-rope climbing and rappelling are allowed, as well as a "no top out" policy and a restriction on anchoring to trees.