Autumn is an excellent time to take to the water. While early months are times when melted snow and spring rains make for exciting whitewater fun, autumn brings the drawdown of major reservoirs to create space for the next winter’s snow. One of the most picturesque and exciting examples of this ‘drawdown’ release arrangement is the Gauley River in central West Virginia. The Gauley runs often throughout the year, but you can pretty much bet on finding rootin’ tootin’ whitewater fun there from early September to the middle of October. Beginning the Friday after Labor Day, the Army Corps of Engineers administer controlled releases specifically for river recreation below its Summersville, West Virginia dam on six successive weekends through the middle of October. These releases bring paddlers travel from all over the United States due to the high quality and reliability of the whitewater.
The Gauley includes two commonly run sections: the Class IV-V Upper Gauley and Class III-IV Lower Gauley. Day trips can be run on the Upper or Lower or in combination with the in-between Class III-IV Middle Gauley section. Some outfitters offer overnight trips that span all three sections, just over twenty-six (26) miles in all.
Rafting the Gauley River is a definite ‘must do’ weekend trip to this part of the country from Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New York DC, Philadelphia in the Midwest and Northeast, Charlotte, Raleigh, Atlanta, Charlotte and Chattanooga. The Gauley and its neighbor New and Bluestone Rivers are protected from further development by being part of a National Service Recreation Area. They offer spectacular beauty and excitement amidst their majestic gorges, and are even prettier as the leave turn.