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About Whitewater Rafting the Gauley River
Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like a Class V rapid on the Gauley River. The Gauley River was a sporadic and unreliable rafting venue until 1985 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was authorized to release water from Summersville Lake.These scheduled and controlled releases flood the Gauley River and transform it into one of the most challenging rivers in the world for whitewater enthusiasts. The Gauley River is generally rafted in two sections by most outfitters and in three sections by others. Both single day and two day trips are offered by many outfitters. The river stretches over 100 miles from the Summersville dam to its meeting with the New River and boasts over 60 rapids, most in the 24 mile stretch starting at the dam.
The Upper Gauley River
The most intense whitewater is found on the upper section of the Gauley River but the rafting season here is short so book early! The upper section relies on water released from Summersville Lake which happens during the months of September and October. Occasionally the release is extended if water levels in the lake are high but don’t count on this happening–its a fairly rare event. The upper section trip is 11 to 15 miles long depending on where the outfitter starts and finishes. This is a very intense section of river with many class IV and V+ rapids.
The upper Gauley rafting season runs every Friday through Monday after Labor Day, and concludes on the third weekend of October in conjunction with the Bridge Day Festival—the world’s largest BASE-jumping event, where BASE jumpers hurl themselves off the nearby 876-foot high New River Gorge Bridge.
Previous rafting experience is strongly recommended.
The Middle Gauley River
The middle section is the shortest and mildest section of the river with class II and III+ rapids along its 7 mile course. It is not offered as a trip by itself by all outfitters. It is, however, the only section of the river that can be rafted April through September on a fairly consistent basis
The Lower Gauley River
The lower section of the river offers many more class IV and V rapids and a slew of class III’s just for good measure. The rapids here aren’t quite as intense as those on the upper Gauley but previous experience is a bonus when setting out to conquer this 13 to 17 mile stretch of mayhem. Two day trips are very popular offering thrill-seekers the chance to run the entire 24 mile stretch of whitewater insanity. Some outfitters offer a “reverse” Gauley trip where you raft the milder lower sections of the river first to get your feet wet with your rafting adventure–a kind of “on the river training” program to prepare you for the onslaught of class V+ rapids on the upper Gauley the second day.
What We Do
(Aside From Offering the Best Value in WV Vacation Accommodations, That Is!)
There are dozens of whitewater rafting outfitters in our area and with good reason. This part of WV offers the best whitewater in the eastern United States. Navigating the rivers, however, can be easier than navigating the plethora of options when it comes to picking the appropriate outfitter for the trip you want. While we don’t own or operate a whitewater outfitter, we are life-long residents with a long history of involvement in the travel and tourism industry and can help you navigate the outfitter gauntlet so that you come up with the perfect outfitter for your perfect whitewater rafting trip.
Our cabins at Carnifex Ferry Cottages are very close to the Gauley River and centrally located to the best West Virginia has to offer.