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Our 10 Favorite New River Gorge Micro-Seasons

March 16, 2024

The idea of micro-seasons comes from ancient Asian cultures that divided the four main seasons into many tiny seasons defined by the natural phenomenon that occurred within each period. We’ve adopted this practice and identified some of our favorite micro-seasons in the New River Gorge.

Who are we? Amy & Shawn, New River Gorge hikers, WV Master Naturalists, and owners of Lafayette Flats Boutique Vacation Rentals in downtown Fayetteville, WV – the heart of New River Gorge National Park. We’re celebrating 10 years of hosting nature and art lovers from all over the world!

A light purpule spring wildflower, a big juice morel mushroom, and Kate's Falls waterfall on near Glade Creek.

Spring Ephemeral Season

From the first of April through mid-May (a little earlier this year), the warm spring sunshine, unobstructed by tree leaves, reaches the forest floor. As a result, millions of tiny wildflowers of all shapes, sizes, and colors blanket the ground. The National Park Service offers guided hikes, wildflower art contests, and more to celebrate the ephemeral beauty of spring.

Waterfall Season

As the heavy spring rains fill the mountain creeks, waterfalls can be seen and heard throughout the New River Gorge. Throughout April and May, gently flowing winter waterfalls become torrents and long-forgotten waterfalls appear again as if through magic.

Lenten Fish Season

The six weeks leading up to Easter remind us that many of the descendants of Italian stonemasons and coalminers reside in the New River Gorge. Public fish fries are offered at St. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Oak Hill every Friday throughout Lent and Secret Sandwich Society offers a delicious limited-time-only fish sandwich.

Morel Season*

When elm tree leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear, the morel mushrooms start popping up in the New River Gorge. Call these mushrooms what you will – land fish, molly-moochers, myrtles – just don’t call them late to the dinner plate. This is a short season and the little guys are hard to find.

Rafters in a blue raft on whitewater along the New River, the huge pink blooms of a rhododendron, and pink waterlily covered Plum Orchard Lake with a blue sky in the background.

Ice Breaker Season

It’s a celebration every year when whitewater rafting season opens in the New River Gorge. Raft guides call it icebreaker weekend. The thrills and chills of high, cold water are not for the faint of heart and usually last into May. But fear not – cold water is good for you and wetsuits are available! Get in on the fun at AOTG’s Fire & Ice Festival.

Rhodo Season

The May full moon kicks off rhododendron blooming season in the New River Gorge. The bright fuchsia/purple flowers of the Catawba Rhododendron bloom first in mid-late May. They are followed by the ubiquitous white flowers of the Great Rhododendron (the West Virginia state flower) in early summer. We look forward to hiking through the forest surrounded by these huge blossoms every year.

Water Lilly Season at Plum Orchard Lake

It’s like walking into a painting each June at Plum Orchard. This small lake near Pax, WV is full of pink and white waterlilies and quite a site to behold. Much to the chagrin of anglers, these invasive, non-native plants make fishing hard, but boy is it beautiful to float through the peaceful setting in a kayak or small boat. We hear efforts are underway to rid the lake of these plants, and as naturalists we applaud the effort, but it doesn’t stop us from enjoying what nature currently has to offer.

Foraged paw paw fruit in a blue bag, heirloom tomatoes on a pizza, and the Gauley river surrounded by green forests.

Heirloom Tomato Pie Season

Some folks in West Virginia call July through October tomato season, but Fayettevillians call it Heirloom Tomato Pie Season. This simple pizza made at the original Pies and Pints in Fayetteville, WV is so good it causes quite a stir when the first pies of the season come out of the oven. The first time we enjoyed this pizza, we went back the next day for another!

Paw Paw Season*

The central Appalachian forests of the New River Gorge are filled with Paw Paw trees, however, sometimes it feels like their fruit is only ripe one day a year. Admittedly, the pawpaw micro-season comprises more hunting for the sweet banana/mango-type fruit than actually finding it ripe. But the reward is yummy.

Gauley Season

The Beast of the East is turned loose every fall, and folks come from far and wild to try and tame it. Gauley Season begins the first weekend after Labor Day when the Army Corp of Engineers opens the dam to begin drawing down Summersville Lake to its winter pool level. It continues for six weekends creating the best white-water rafting in the country.

TAKE THE QUIZ: Which New River Gorge Hiking Trail is Right for YOU?

*Always check the New River Gorge Superintendent’s Compendium before foraging in the National Park.

Craving more data for your New River Gorge exploration? Read “Full Moons of the New River Gorge: A Naturalist’s Calendar” and “New River Gorge Explorer: A 5-Day Itinerary.

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