5 Poker Rooms that Closed (for Good) in 2020


2020 was a rough year for poker. From temporary closures to plexiglass partitions to the cancellation of numerous tournaments, live poker took a hit. While we hope that most rooms will return to business as normal at some point in 2021, we want to take a moment to note the rooms that fell by the wayside last year. Here are a few of the poker rooms that closed in 2020.
Poker Rooms Closed Permanently in 2020
The Mirage
The Mirage Poker Room in Las Vegas fell upon hard times long before 2020 came around. The room repeatedly saw its square footage reduced along with its import to the casino. First opened in 1989 by Steve Wynn (later acquired by MGM), the Mirage was a major center of poker action. Its 19 tables hosted the likes of Jennifer Harmon, Daniel Negreanu, and Layne Flack. The Mirage is even mentioned in that greatest of all poker movies Rounders as “the center of the poker universe.”

By the time we visited the Mirage back in 2018, the room, while still nice, had lost a lot of its luster. Down to 12 tables, most of the celebrities and high rollers had migrated to greener pastures at the Bellagio, Aria, and the like. The tournament that we played there was the definition of bingo poker, with blinds doubling rapidly almost from the start. Nonetheless, it is always sad to lose a poker room with such a storied past.

Mandalay Bay
MGM announced the closing of poker rooms in three of its casinos in November 2020, and that was it for poker at Mandalay Bay. Mandalay Bay’s poker room had been open since 1999 and featured 10 tables. While it was a relatively sleepy room, the number of tables lost to the pandemic are mounting.
Excalibur
The Excalibur poker room was the third MGM Las Vegas poker room that closed permanently in 2020. The smallest of the three, with only seven tables, it will nonetheless be missed.

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Harrah’s Philadelphia
The closure of the Harrah’s Philadelphia poker room is a notable loss in the Mid-Atlantic. At 28 tables, Harrah’s poker room was the second largest in the area (after Parx). Harrah’s, owned by Ceasar’s Entertainment, opened the poker room in 2010 and branded it a World Series of Poker room. The casino had recently undergone renovations and the room was bustling in the months before the pandemic.
While most Pennsylvania poker rooms have reopened at this point, tournaments have generally not resumed. Once poker rooms are allowed to fully open again, Harrah’s impact will definitely be felt. The loss of one of the few large tournament venues in the Philadelphia area will definitely have an impact.
We want to take a moment to note the rooms that fell by the wayside last year. Here are a few of the poker rooms that closed in 2020.Click To Tweet
The Poker Room at One Lafayette
The Poker Room at One Lafayette, commonly known as Hampton Falls Poker Room was our poker home away from home. As such, its 2020 demise hit us hard. Hampton’s Friday afternoon tournament had one of the best structures that we have ever had the pleasure to play. The room hosted a number of great tournaments each week, was player-friendly, and had both excellent dealers and professional floor personnel.
Upstairs at Hampton Falls
Sadly, Hampton Falls was sold early in 2020 with plans to merge operations with The Brook across town. Then the pandemic hit and Hampton Falls abruptly closed along with the rest of New Hampshire poker (for a time- most New Hampshire rooms have reopened, at least for cash games). Those of us who loved Hampton Falls were thus robbed of a final good-bye.
Encore Boston Harbor?
While Encore Boston Harbor has not officially declared their poker room closed permanently, the signs are not good. While other New England poker rooms were reopening last summer, Encore quietly shipped its poker tables and chips out west, repurposing the poker room’s space for slot machines and table games.
To be fair, Massachusetts has not yet permitted poker rooms in the state to re-open. However, there has been much back-channel talk by former employees and those in the know indicating that Encore felt that poker detracted from its offerings and would not return, even once permitted.
When it opened in 2019, the Encore Boston Harbor poker room took the New England poker scene by storm, averaging the most cash action and busiest poker tournaments in the entire region. However, Encore management soon soured on poker, complaining that the extremely popular tournaments led to too much congestion in the parking lot without enough of a return to the property.
Fingers crossed for an eventual reopening, but we fear that poker at Encore is gone for good.
Future Poker Room Closures
As the pandemic progresses into a second year, we fear that poker room closures will begin to multiply. Currently, there are only a couple of venues offering poker tournaments in all of New England. As we have stated before, live poker tournaments are our game of choice. We worry that we may see far fewer tournament options in the future than we have had available to us in the past, in New England and beyond.
Fingers crossed for a full and lively return to live poker as soon as it is safe.
If you are looking for a resource on what poker rooms are currently open, Paul is updating such a page over at Advanced Poker Training.

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“It’s About Time”: Martina Navratilova Reflects on Roger Federer Confirming to Play in Dubai


It has been more than a year of inaction for Roger Federer now. He last played at the Australian Open 2020, where the Swiss maestro saw a straight-set loss against the Serbian Novak Djokovic. It was a tough series for him where he had to test his physical limits in 2 five-setters.  The 20-time grand slam champion later in the same year underwent double knee surgeries. All of this kept him away from the tennis court even after various countries lifted lockdown and the sport made a much-awaited return. However, the latest news is a big positive for the Federer camp. Martina Navratilova reflected on the comeback of Roger Federer The Swiss great will make his return to the ATP Tour at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. Also, the latest development suggests that he can then play an ATP 500 tournament in nearby Dubai.  In a recent interview, a jovial Martina Navratilova learned the news and reacted with some humor. The 18-time women’s Grand Slam champion expressed, “I think he just wants to stay in Burj Al Arab again, but amazing! “It’s great to see Roger back, it’s about time for him sitting for over a year. So I’m glad he’s healthy and playing again.”  That he is coming back with an ATP 250 will ensure that he does not have to put too much pressure on himself for advancing deeper in the event. Prior to this, there were headlines that alleged Roger was fit enough to return for Australian Open 2021 and that he decided against it because of family reasons. Can the Ninjafed make a successful return? Roger Federer gestures to the spectators before hitting signed tennis balls into the stands during the 2019 Hopman Cup. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)Well, it might be an ATP 250, but it has participation from some of the best ATP players. The 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem, the ATP Cup 2021 hero Andrey Rublev, and of course King Roger himself will stay in the highlight of the event. Apart from these names, there are six players from the Top-20 that’ll make the competition juicier. From Roger’s Swiss companion Stan Wawrinka to Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils, and others, it will not be an easy draw for the legendary 39-YO. However, the rusty Federer is also the mighty Federer, and he has always dominated all the aforementioned names with his stinging play. Also notably, his participation in the Dubai event will depend on how his body reacts to the Qatar event. The event will kick off on March 8th and the world will cheer for the arguable GOAT. READ MORE- Why is Roger Federer Considered the GOAT?

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2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Tuesday Night


Rod Laver Arena | 11 p.m. TuesdayAndrey Rublev vs. Daniil MedvedevAndrey Rubley and Daniil Medvedev secured the ATP Cup for Russia earlier this month, with neither player losing a singles match throughout. In their three meetings on the ATP Tour, Medvedev has come out on top each time, including in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in September.This may be Rublev’s chance to finally overcome his friendly rival. He has looked particularly dominant, not dropping a set throughout the tournament. His match against Casper Ruud ended after only two sets when the Norwegian withdrew with an injury. Going into the quarterfinals, Rublev has led the field in both percentage of first service points won and second service points won, a sign of how hard it has been for opponents to break his serve.Medvedev has also been playing well, aside from a chaotic, disorganized third round match against Filip Krajinovic. He has now won 18 matches in a row, with his last loss coming in October at a tournament in Vienna. Although the fast surface fits Medvedev’s flat baseline shots, Rublev’s open stance is well suited in defense, and we’re sure to see many dynamic, aggressive point.Rod Laver Arena | 3:30 a.m. WednesdayRafael Nadal vs. Stefanos TsitsipasRafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed, has moved smoothly through the first four rounds, no surprise for a player with 20 Grand Slam titles. Although Nadal won his only Australian Open title over a decade ago, he has reached the finals on four other occasions since, and is a clear favorite in his half of the draw to do so again. Nadal’s powerful topspin shots are well-suited to clay courts where he can drag opponents around with tightly angled shots. Nadal’s ability to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses with relentless pressure can break most players on their best days.Stefanos Tsitsipas, the ATP finals winner in 2019, is a study in unpredictability. The fifth seed has a capable all-court game, but lacks the consistency to execute match after match. The 22-year-old has worked to improve this aspect of his game, but needed five sets to push back unseeded Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round. After receiving a walkover in the round of 16, Tsitsipas will be well rested and hoping for an advantage against one of the most mentally tough players on tour.

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European Team of the Week: Ilkay Gundogan and Lionel Messi join hat-trick hero Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang


Every week we pick 22 of the best performing players in Europe’s top five leagues and, with your help, narrow it down to the best XI.

Using polls on our Instagram stories, we pit players in each position against each other and let you decide who deserves to make the cut.
Follow our Instagram page to get involved.

Here’s what our latest European Team of the Week looks like:
GK: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)

Earned his 12th clean sheet of the season and Villa a point in difficult circumstances. Brighton were well on top and exerted pressure on his goal, but a stunning nine saves kept them at bay.

RB: Matthew Lowton (Burnley)
Undoubtedly his best performances of the season, excelling at both ends of the pitch. Lowton made three tackles, three interceptions and five clearances in a fine defensive display but really caught the eye in attack with three key passes and one outstanding volley to score at the end of a superb run.
CB: Lucas Martinez Quarta (Fiorentina)
Solid at the back and certainly didn’t deserve to end up on the losing side. Stood out with 11 defensive actions in a 2-1 defeat to Sampdoria, including five interceptions and he even managed to hit the woodwork at the other end.
CB: Diego Carlos (Sevilla)
A rock at the back as Sevilla secured a 1-0 victory at home to Huesca. Made a staggering 11 clearances in the process and was good on the ball, boasting a success rate of 92.7 per cent.
LB: Ola Aina (Fulham)
Perfect ball across for Josh Maja to score the first goal at the end of a fluid Fulham attack. He put in a shift in defence as well. No one made more than his five clearances during the 2-0 win over Everton.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan (Man City)
The Premier League’s Player of the Month continued in his rich vein of form. He was excellent in midfield and tormented Tottenham with his well-timed runs forward, bagging a brace. He sat Davinson Sanchez down before slotting home for his second goal.

CM: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
Dictated the tempo of the game with his exceptional distribution. The German played 107 passes at 94.4-per-cent accuracy. He picked up an assist for the opener and then passed the ball into the back of the net with ease to get himself on the score sheet as well.
CM: Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)
Took his goal superbly, showing great strength to hold off the defender before checking back onto his weaker right foot and dispatching the finish with aplomb. He posed a constant threat with a game-high five shots in the 2-1 win at Villarreal.
FW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Vintage Messi, skipping past challenges and scoring from range. He hammered in his first in emphatic fashion, but his second was a thing of beauty, curling a sublime effort into the corner from the edge of the box with minimal back-lift. He even bagged an assist, by setting up Trincao.

FW: Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
Reached 300 goals for club and country by scoring a brace in a 3-1 win over Lazio that fired Inter to the top of Serie A. He made no mistake from the spot and then took advantage of some suspect defending for his second. He then showed immense pace and power to assist Lautaro Martinez on the break.
FW: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Scored his first Premier League hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Leeds and even hit the woodwork. He cut in expertly to score the opener, converted a penalty and then headed home Emile Smith-Rowe’s cross.
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Jessica Pegula, daughter of Bills and Sabres owners, pulls off massive Australian Open upset


Jessica Pegula. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)Packers: 3 moves Green Bay can make thanks to David Bakhtiari by Rucker Haringey Jessica Pegula continues her magical run at the 2021 Australian Open, knocking off the No. 5 player in the world to get to the quarterfinals.Jessica Pegula is one match away from getting to the 2021 Australian Open semifinals. The daughter of Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula just pulled off an incredible upset in the fourth round on Sunday, defeating the No. 5 player in the world Elina Svitolina 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals. Pegula faces No. 22 Jennifer Brady on Tuesday.This was the 26-year-old’s first victory over a top-10 opponent, as well as her first trip to a Grand Slam quarterfinal. It will be an All-American quarterfinal between Pegula and Brady on Tuesday.“It’s an opportunity for both of us,” said Pegula after defeating Svitolina on Sunday at Rod Laver. “I’m just happy I’m here. She’s been playing some good tennis, solidifying herself as a top player.”Perhaps the Bills’ success will continue to carry over to Pegula in Australia?The Bills are coming off their best season in Pegula’s lifetime. Buffalo had not hosted a playoff game since before she was born. While the Sabres continue to not do much of anything on the NHL side of things, the Bills were one win away from making their fifth trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history. The Bills should be one of the top five teams in the NFL again next season.While Pegula’s remarkable run in Melbourne may be coming to an end soon, being able to knock off the No. 5 player in the sport in such a high-profile event as the Australian Open is a huge accomplishment. Pegula is in her athletic prime and with one more victory over a ranked opponent, she will be one of the last four women’s tennis players remaining in this tournament.Pegula’s run in the 2021 Australian Open has been one of the better stories of the entire event.

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IND vs ENG | Wouldn’t call it a good pitch but it made for exciting cricket, opines Joe Root



Following a shambolic loss, Joe Root opined that he wouldn’t call the Chennai pitch for the second Test as a ‘good’ pitch but insisted that it made for exciting cricket. He also admitted that it is a learning experience for the visitors to look at India and bat for long periods of time. After cruising past the hosts India in the first Test, where Joe Root led by example, England were looking to keep their momentum up for the second Test, at the same venue. However, right from the toss, everything went awry as they lost the toss and were made to bowl on a relatively flatter wicket. Eventually, that combined with their first innings batting display took the game away from the visitors, who ended up chasing the game from the second day. The visitors subsequently succumbed to a 317-run loss, during which the conditions in Chennai was a major part of the debate. Joe Root opined that he wouldn’t call it a good pitch but reckoned that the pitch did make for exciting cricket between the two teams. “It’s very alien to what a lot of English guys will have experienced before, as are green seamers that you might across in the UK. Do I think it was a good pitch? I wouldn’t say it was a good pitch, but it made for very exciting cricket,” said Root, reported ESPNCricinfo. “I do think that the toss was an important one to win but it wouldn’t have guaranteed us to win the game either. India showed that you can score runs on it and found a way of managing a very tricky surface so we’ve got to learn from that,” he added.Despite the tricky surface, India through their two innings – showed England how to bat, scoring 614 runs. Root stated that it was something that the visitors would have to learn from and added that they needed bat for long periods of time like the hosts. “How they (India) didn’t get away from their game plan, how they knew exactly the way they were going to score their runs. How they managed to bat at the other end for long periods of time.””And as a batting group, how does that look for us individually? How I am going to manage these big turning deliveries and how am I going to stay really calm and clear under pressure? We’ve got to take bits from it and add it to our own games, and come back better for it as well,” he added.However, next up for the visitors would be a day-night clash in Ahmedabad, where Root has his sights on, insisting that the break will help them regain momentum. “Day-night cricket offers something different again, so we are very much looking forward to that. We’ll have a little bit of a break now to refresh and have a look at a few things, but it’s exciting times.”Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .

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IPL 2021 Auction: CSK CEO says, “MS Dhoni, Stephen Fleming will stay connected with us digitally during auctions”


IPL 2021 auction CSK – MS Dhoni, Stephen Fleming: Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni and coach Stephen Fleming will not be coming to Chennai to attend the IPL Auctions. But CSK fans and the team management need not worry. According to CSK CEO, Kashi Vishwanath both will be connected with the team officials digitally and will stay present throughout the auctions.

CSK CEO told InsideSport, “They (Fleming and Dhoni) are not coming to Chennai for IPL Auctions but in today’s time, there are so many mediums to stay connected. They will be with us digitally,”
Chennai Super Kings Released & Retained Players
Chennai had released six players including some big stars like Harbhajan Singh, and Kedar Jadhav. The three-times champion have Rs 19.9 in their purse. At the auctions, they can only sign a maximum of six players including one overseas.
Vishwanathan says they have shortlisted their players and are ready for the auctions. “Our preparations are going well. We are all set for the auctions”.
The eight-team managements will reach the Grand Chola on February 17. Upon arrival they will undergo a COVID-19 test.
A maximum of 13 members will be allowed in the venue where the auction will be conducted. Out of the 13, eight will be allowed to sit at the auction table while five will be seated in the gallery.
Also Read: IPL 2021 Auction: Arjun Tendulkar impresses IPL teams with 77(31) and 3 wicket haul at Police Shield tournament
IPL 2021 auction: Who should CSK sign at the IPL auction?
There are not many gaps for CSK to fill as they have retained their core group and added an experienced player like Robin Uthappa from Rajasthan Royals to it.

But they still need an off-spinner as a replacement to Harbhajan Singh. Krishanappa Gowtham will be a good replacement for the former Indian offie. The former Kings XI Punjab will be available for Rs 20 lakh.

Furthermore, they can bring Umesh Yadav to the squad as a backup for Deepak Chahar. CSK then look for Dwayne Bravo’s backup. Chris Morris will be one option.

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Draymond Green calls out NBA double-standard after Cavaliers sit Drummond


Draymond Green says there’s a double-standard in the NBA that protects teams but alienates players when trade requests are made public.
“At some point, we need to be treated with the same respect and have the same rights that the team can have,” Green said Monday after his Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game in which Andre Drummond was benched while the Cavaliers look for a trade for the star centre.
Earlier on Monday both the Cavaliers with Drummond and the Detroit Pistons with Blake Griffin made it publically known that those players would not play another game until a trade can be found. The NBA trade deadline is March 25.
After watching Drummond sit on the sidelines Monday, Green called the situation “b— s—” and cited numerous examples of players requesting trades and being portrayed as bad apples for doing so — including the January fallout between James Harden and the Houston Rockets — while teams can seemingly operate at will without criticism for their actions.
“…As a player, you’re the worst person in the world when you want a different situation. But a team can say they’re trading you, and that man is to say in shape, he has to stay professional and if not, his career is on the line,” Green said. “At some point, this league has to protect the players from embarrassment like that.”

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Ashwin stars as India thrash England to level Test series


Chennai: India captain Virat Kohli said Tuesday his side showed more “grit” and “determination” to thrash England in the second Test, playing down complaints about the difficult pitch.
With local hero Ravichandran Ashwin claiming eight wickets in the match and scoring 106 in the second innings, India completed a 317-run victory inside four days in Chennai.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel claimed a five-wicket haul on his Test debut as England were out for 164 while chasing an unlikely 482 on day four.
Some said the Chennai pitch, which crumbled from nearly the first day, was not fit for a Test.
But England made no public complaint and Kohli rejected the criticism and said his side played a “perfect game”.
“I think our application with the bat was outstanding,” said the India captain.
“The conditions were challenging for both sides but we showed more application and grit and determination to battle it out.
“We didn’t panic out there looking at the hard turn and bounce on that pitch.”
Kohli highlighted that India scored 600 runs over two innings despite the conditions, and winning the toss made no difference.
“So if you put up that kind of batting performance and you string in those important batting partnerships then we know that our bowlers are going to do the job.”
England ‘outplayed
England captain Joe Root conceded that his side were “outplayed in all three departments this week” and had to learn quickly before the third Test in Ahmedabad.
But he added: “I would say it was a challenging wicket. I do think that it was an important toss to win.”
England, he said, now have to be “honest” and learn quickly to adapt to conditions in India.
England, struggling since the opening day, kept losing wickets after resuming on 53-3 on day four.
Root departed for 33 soon after lunch, falling to Patel.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav joined in to finish off the innings, taking Moeen Ali after he smashed 43 off 18 balls.
The last wicket partnership of 38 between Ali and Stuart Broad, unbeaten on five, was England’s highest of the match.
England, who have been resting and rotating players, said Ali would be returning home after the Test.
Ali had coronavirus in Sri Lanka but recovered to take a total of eight wickets in the second Test against India.
Ashwin’s five wickets to help bowl out England for 134 in the first innings in response to India’s 329 set the tone for the host’s dominance.
England conceded a lead of 195 and then struggled on a pitch that offered turn from day one.
“This wicket was very different to the one we played on in the first game,” Ashwin conceded, but he added that the wickets had not fallen from the balls he expected.
“It was the mind of the batsmen that got us wickets.”
Opener Rohit Sharma hit an attacking 161 to set up India’s big innings after they won the toss and elected to bat first.
Sharma’s seventh Test century and his first against England raised the pitch of the returning Indian crowd — present in a stadium for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.
Kohli made 62 in the second innings, putting on a key 96-run seventh-wicket partnership with Ashwin on day three.
Both sides need to win the series to take the second place in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand later this year.
The third Test — a day-night match — will begin in Ahmedabad on February 24.
Authorities have not said if fans will be allowed into the world’s biggest cricket stadium — with a 100,000-plus capacity — for the game.
Read: England thrashes India by 227 runs in first Chennai Test
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Meet America’s 63rd National Park


As Americans continue to weather the pandemic, the $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and spending bill passed by the federal government in December brought an unexpected and lasting gift: a new national park.The 5,593-page spending package included a raft of provisions authorizing little-known projects — the construction of the Teddy Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota, for one — and giving lawmakers a chance to advance a variety of long-delayed initiatives. Among them was the elevation of the New River Gorge, in southern West Virginia, to the status of Yellowstone, Yosemite and the country’s other most renowned outdoor spaces. The designation of the area — roughly 72,000 acres of land flanking 53 miles of the gorge — as a national park and preserve creates the 63rd national park in the United States and completes a multigenerational effort, started in the mid-twentieth century, to transform a tired industrial area into a national landmark.“Towards the end of this year, with these big bills coming down, I decided to strike,” said Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican and the state’s junior senator, who, along with Senator Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, introduced the New River Gorge legislation in 2019.“This was the right opportunity,” she said.A draw for rafters, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiastsThe gorge and its surroundings have been prized for decades as one of southern West Virginia’s more spectacular natural places.In 1963, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution seeking to designate the New River Gorge as a “national playground,” preparing to send the proposal to President John F. Kennedy, whose primary campaign was lifted substantially through support from West Virginia voters. But momentum to create a national recreation area stalled after Mr. Kennedy’s assassination later that year.Though the gorge remained a curiosity among rafters and outdoor enthusiasts, the area only received federal protection from the Interior Department in 1978, when it was designated a national river.Now, the outdoor offerings in the gorge have come to define the area as a premier destination for adventure sports in the East.The New River plunges 750 feet over 66 miles, resulting in long stretches of violent rapids that can reach a class five level, generally considered the most difficult that can be navigated by white-water boaters. (Licensed outfitters operate in several towns near the river, providing rentals and tours for rafting and kayaking.)The canyon walls, which soar as high as 1,600 feet, offer miles of cliffs that rank among the best in the East Coast for rock climbing. Sheer faces in the gorge made of robust Nuttall sandstone provide both traditional and sport-climbing routes across the difficulty spectrum.Bike routes are scattered throughout the park on both sides of the river, with options for both technical mountain biking and more casual pedaling along former railroad beds.A glimpse back in timeAccording to the National Park Service, geologists believe the New River — its name a misnomer used by early American explorers who often assigned the same name to any river they came upon for the first time — was a segment of the preglacial Teays River. This larger river, which traversed much of the current Ohio River watershed, was later diverted and broken up by glaciers. The age of the Teays is uncertain, but fossil evidence suggests it could be as much as 320 million years old, leaving its remnant, the New River, as quite possibly the second oldest river in the world.Beyond the millions of years of geological history on display, the gorge is also filled with signs of the region’s heritage as a major coal production hub.Miners once capitalized on the easy access to rich deposits of high-quality bituminous coal in the canyon, where the river had already shorn through hundreds of feet of rock. Especially after the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway linked the New River coal fields to markets in 1873, dozens of boom towns popped up along the river’s edge, thriving well into the 1920s.In 1963, a coal mine was still operating in the gorge, said Dave Arnold, a state tourism commissioner who operated a rafting company for more than 40 years.“In ’76 or ’77, if you were in my boat, we’d have been floating down the river and I would have been showing you, ‘here’s an old coal tipple, here’s the old hotel at Caperton, here’s this and that,’” he said.The demand for coal around the turn of the twentieth century was so high that towns existed every half mile along up the river, according to the Park Service. As the industry went into decline, however, by the 1950s many were already abandoned, leaving ghost towns scattered throughout the gorge. Additionally, logging during the late nineteenth century stripped vast portions of the gorge bare, clearing enormous swaths of virgin forest.The park contains the remnants of communities such as Nuttallburg and Kaymoor, which still stand near the riverbank and are accessible from points higher up. Seams of exposed coal are visible along some trails leading into the gorge and its towns, where abandoned mine portals and the foundations of coke ovens remain.Restoring an ecosystem with diverse wildlifeDespite the environmental degradation and pollution that industry unleashed, some unique ecological features make the gorge well-suited to a diverse combination of wildlife, which has slowly reappeared as time has passed.The river lies at the center of a migration corridor where plants and animals that typically range further north or south come together, including several federally endangered and threatened species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat and the Allegheny woodrat.According to Lizzie Watts, the park’s superintendent, the river itself is also notably warmer than surrounding areas, making it a popular warm-water fishing destination with more than a dozen public access points. The river is one of the premier spots for smallmouth bass fishing on the east coast, and muskellunge and walleye are common in the park today.“The next generation will have the opportunity to see what, in the last 150 years, it looks like when an area goes from being logged and mined to left alone,” Ms. Watts said. “The ecosystem has come back to full trees and mature forests.”As federal protections took effect after the Park Service began overseeing the area as a national river in 1978, wildlife has largely recovered, and many see an opportunity to showcase the region’s natural elegance.“To show off our rock climbing, our extreme sports availabilities in that area, is just really exciting,” said Ms. Capito of what she described as a “kind of wild and wonderful part of our state.” ‘The cream of the crop’The National Park Service, created in 1916, oversees more than 400 areas across the country, including national monuments, seashores and battlefields as well as parks, which together total more than 85 million acres.While the new title for New River Gorge does not fundamentally alter the area’s day-to-day operations, both lawmakers and the Park Service tend to view “national parks” as the crown jewels of the park system — a protection granted to some of the largest and most prized tracts of the country.“National Park status is usually considered like the cream of the crop,” Ms. Watts said. “But it really is just another one of those names.”The New River Gorge does not match the scale of many national parks in the western United States, where Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone sprawl over more than 1 million acres each.Nevertheless, officials expect the new designation to bring a substantial influx of travelers, boosted in part by a dedicated set of enthusiasts who strive to visit every national park.In typical years, around 1.3 million travelers visit the gorge, according to the Park Service’s tourism data. Based on studies of other areas that received national park status, Ms. Capito said she expects to see visitors increase by as much as 20 percent.“It does feel like the very beginning stages of transformation for the whole area,” said Becky Sullivan, the executive director of the New River Gorge Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I’ll be very, very interested to see where we are in about 10 years.”Maintaining the community and its favored pastimesAs unique outdoor attractions throughout the Appalachian region have gained more national visibility, some concern has grown over the idea of a wealthy and mobile set from out of state trampling the communities adjacent to these places.West Virginia remains the second-poorest state in the country in terms of median household income, according to data collected by the United States Census Bureau. And while tourism has brought a needed injection of wealth to areas all around the gorge, it has also changed the makeup of neighboring communities, as more people have come to visit the park or settle down near it.Interest in the natural offerings around the park has brought slow but measurable change for small towns nearby like Fayetteville. Officials say that the advent of remote work during the pandemic has only hastened a trend of properties in the area being repurposed for vacation rentals and outsiders snapping up second homes.“You cannot find a house for sale in Fayetteville, because they’re just in such high demand,” said Sharon Cruikshank, the town’s mayor. “So that definitely changed the budgeting of the town as well as the county.”When legislation was first introduced to designate the area as a national park, pushback came from some locals. Hunters have long enjoyed access to secluded sections of woods around the gorge, and with hunting prohibited in federal parks, some protested the potential loss of thousands of acres of hunting grounds.In a compromise, more than 65,000 acres of the total area were designated as a nature preserve where hunting can continue as before, and only roughly 7,000 acres directly within the canyon are officially off limits as national parkland. A provision was included to empower the park to acquire more than 3,000 acres of private land around its current boundaries as well, to expand the size of the preserve and add public hunting grounds.In a nod to tradition, the legislation also enshrines the right for visitors to continue to make use of one of the park’s most famous features — the New River Gorge Bridge — at least once a year.BASE jumping, an extreme sport in which jumpers parachute from elevated structures or cliffs, is banned in every other national park.But, since 1980, BASE jumpers have been permitted to plunge from the top of the 876-foot-high bridge and parachute down toward the river once a year, on Bridge Day, held one Saturday in October. The legislation designating the area as a national park allows that tradition to continue.As many as 100,000 people typically come to watch the jumpers plunge, according to Ms. Sullivan, providing a major boost for businesses in the region. The event has only been canceled twice, including last year because of the coronavirus.Bridge Day’s organizers advise jumpers that the only dependable way to touch down safely is to plan to land directly in the river. In normal years, hundreds do so, often multiple times that day, gliding down and softly hitting the New River’s waters.

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