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If you are going to spend much time in this area, it makes sense to take up kayaking. As we all know, it rains a good bit, and it helps to have something else to do when your climbing day is washed out. Besides, kayaking is a blast. It’s fast-moving, exhilarating, challenging and not nearly as strenuous as climbing. That’s why those boaters can party so hard.

This is a great area to learn. You have three larger rivers that run most of the time to choose from and a number of challenging creeks that run when it rains.

The New River is warm from late spring to the fall–a relevant factor considering you’ll be spending a lot of time upside down–don’t forget your noseplugs. There are several moderate sections to run where you’ll be able to practice your strokes, roll, ferrying, and peeling out in a gentle, non-threatening environment. The Upper New sections will prepare you to run the Lower Gorge, rated Class IV.  Considering that it is a pretty high-volume river, it is very user-friendly. For a great skill-building workout, park at the old Fayette Station Bridge and paddle up river to Thread the Needle, a gentle rapid that you can fool around in.  You can run Fayette Station rapid which is big but straightforward, if you want to see how you handle whitewater.

The infamous Gauley River offers a step up after you have mastered the Lower New.  The Lower Gauley offers huge wave trains, gorgeous scenary and addicting surf spots.  The Upper Gauley, rated in the top 10 commercially run rivers in the world, deserves its lofty reputation.  The Big Five rapids, all rated Class V, are challenging, potentially dangerous, and a hell of a lot of fun.  

The Meadow River offers three sections, two of which are moderate class III and one, the lower section, that is super-serious class V.  The Middle Meadow is the most popular, offering a short shuttle and fun tight rapids.  Keep your wits about you though, undercut rocks lurk even on this moderate section. 

We highly recommend getting some quality instruction.  Paddling is technique intensive and you can save yourself much time and aggravation by getting someone to show you the ropes. You will find certified instructors at many of the raft companies. Try Class VI River Runners or Ace Adventure Center.

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