West Virginia Whitewater
This area’s claim to fame is having “America’s Best Whitewater”. With the New and Gauley Rivers to work with, that is not much of an exaggeration. If you get rained off the rock, it is definitely worth checking out the rafting scene. Let us repeat that: Climbers! Go rafting! It is a blast!
The New River earns its moniker “The Grand Canyon of the East” during spring high water. We’re talking huge waves and hydraulics. Summertime levels are more sedate-while you won’t get much in the way of an adrenaline rush, it is a great time to expose kids to whitewater. The scenery is always great, and if you’ve never been, you’ll find that rafting is a curious mix of exhilarating and relaxing. Rafts are the ultimate lounge crafts. The Upper New is great for younger kids-small rapids and lots of pools for swimming in. Many companies offer ducky (inflatable kayak) trips on this section.
The Gauley River is smaller, steeper, more pristine and more serious. It earned its legendary status (top 10 commercially rafted rivers in the world) because of the fall drawdown season. For 23 days spread over six weeks, the army Corps of Engineers lets an optimum amount of water out of Summersville Dam. Rafting enthusiasts and kayakers come from around the world to get a piece of the action. The 2001 World Rafting Championship was held here and the carnage (flips and mishaps) was severe!
The Upper Gauley is the ultimate. Steep, technical, undercut, and very exciting. Famous rapids such as Lost Paddle, Pillow Rock and Sweet’s Falls deserve all the fanfare they get.
The Lower Gauley is a step up from the New but a step down from the Upper. Lots of long wave trains make this section a blast. Very scenic. Exciting but not as serious.
You have many outfitters to choose from. Some are huge, some small; some are cheaper than others. Some are more safety conscious. Some specialize in the wild ride. They all offer a large selection of trips of varying lengths. Ask a lot of questions and shop around.
Kayaking is a blast. Surprisingly few climbers make the transition into being competent paddlers but we highly encourage you to give it a shot. Most of the local raft companies also offer kayak instruction which is well worth the money. If you watch kayakers and wish you could dance on water like that, learn how, because it really is that much fun.