Looking for an adventure to test that intestinal fortitude you’ve always bragged about? How about a trip on “America’s Best Whitewater®?” West Virginia’s New and Gauley Rivers are known worldwide for their roaring rapids and mettle-testing pace. Every fall, water from the dam at Summersville Lake is released during weekend intervals providing the most intense whitewater rafting trip east of the Mississippi. Swollen from the extra water, the Gauley becomes a broiling beast ranked among the best in the world for its rapids. The Upper Gauley during this time boasts many rapids with a Class V ranking so riders must be 16 or older to even step foot on a raft. There are even times when the Gauley’s rapids exceed a Class V and commercial rafters have to shut down the river. Meanwhile, the Lower Gauley is a little tamer, but is still a seemingly never-ending chain of rapids ranked from Class III to V. To think that they use that as a warm-up to the Upper Gauley! After all, the Gauley did not earn the nickname “The Beast of the East” by being a timid stream.
Not to be outdone by its northern neighbor, the New River is a frothing adventure just waiting to be discovered. While the New may offer a few more tame regions, it still is the longest whitewater river in the East and has plenty of difficult rapids to challenge the most skilled white water rafters. The New, contrary to its name is considered by experts to be one of the oldest rivers in the world, dug out the New River Gorge over eons of time. If this river can cut a channel almost 1,000 feet deep, imagine the power it can display on a fourteen-foot raft! The Upper New is perfect for a leisurely float or to take a couple of friends out fishing. The Middle New spices it up with a few Class II and III rapids. Once the raft gets to the Lower New, look out; this section is world famous for its spectacular views and churning rapids. Here, the world-famous New River Gorge Bridge – the longest steel arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere – can be seen from the river’s point-of-view.
Looking for an even more extreme way to experience the New and Gauley?
Bring a kayak and see the Gauley or New on a more personal level. Some outfitters will provide duckies (small, maneuverable boats, much like kayaks), and take groups of people together while still allowing participants to have a more independent experience. Trip availability is varied throughout the year, with the spring and fall seasons on the Gauley being the best times to go. The spring season offers riders a chance to brave the snow-swollen rivers. However, during periods of increased rainfall, the New and Gauley can get really wild even during the summer.
So if the same old and predictable roller coasters no longer provide that thrill, visit the New and Gauley Rivers during peak season and experience a ride more exhilarating, more breathtaking, and more courage-testing than any other ride out there. After all, nothing is more powerful and awe-inspiring than Mother Nature herself.