Wildlife and Plants in the New River Gorge

If you’re coming in for the birding and nature festivals, or just for a hike, there’s plenty of life to spot on the forest trails of the New River Gorge.


Hummingbird WVAmong the feathered wildlife you might spot is the ruby-throated hummingbird, the subject of this week’s New River Hummingbird Festival talks. Learn more about the bird and get up close and personal with leading professionals.
You might also spy the state songbird, a bright red cardinal. Or an aerial hunter, like the golden eagle or peregrine falcon. Even if you don’t see one, you might hear one of the many woodpecker species, working away at the trees.
 Here’s a full checklist of the birds in the New River Gorge.


The New River Gorge is a great place to spot brightly colored wings, birds and bugs alike. See if you can spot the fluttering wings of the bold burnt oranges of the painted lady, the light browns of the silver spotted skipper, or the pale yellow of the dainty sulphur.
For a unique wing shape, look for the dropped bottom hind wings of the swallowtails. The bold yellow tiger swallowtail is easily recognized by its striped pattern. The black swallowtail is also common, with its dark wings, doted with yellows and blues like jewels.

Flowers & plants

West Virginia’s wild and wonderful scenery would be nothing without its luscious greens and its flaming reds in the fall. From trees to berry bushes to wildflowers, West Virginia’s landscape is alive and blooming.
Many of the plants and flowers in the Gorge are edible. You can lick up the sweet drops of nectar from the honeysuckle, or pick basketfuls of juicy berries or strong wild onions.
Look for the unique cascading branches of the willows, or the distinctive leaves of the maple trees. Dogwoods’ slender trunks explode with warm-colored leaves. The papery exterior of the beech tree make it easy to spot. Pines and other greenery even thrive year-round, keeping their needle coats long into the winter.
Here is a tree and shrubbery checklist for the New River Gorge.
Looking for florals? Seek out the state flower, the rhododendron, or see how many varieties of lily you can spot dotted along the landscape. West Virginia is even home to some vibrant varieties of orchidHere is a wildflower checklist you can use.

Other wildlife

Those plants and trees are home to lots of critters. You’re likely to spot a squirrel or two leaping through the branches. If you’re quiet, it’s not uncommon to come upon a shy family of deer. Foxes will flit through the fall leaves swiftly; if you’re lucky, you may steal a glance.
In the evenings, opossums and raccoons will also be scurrying out of their holes. Be careful what you leave out; they’re curious, and forage for food late into the nigh hours. Look up, and you might see a cast of winged creatures that don’t fit into the “bird” category— bats!
Which plants and creatures did you spot, or are you hoping to spot, on your trip to the New River Gorge?