Five Southeast Rafting Classics

Upper Gauley
By Tom Ress

Friday, West Virginia, Upper Gauley River.

This is the one you've been waiting for, the most challenging river of the week. This thirteen-mile section of the Gauley is best run for about three weeks in September and October when the Army Corps of Engineers releases water from behind Summersville Lake upstream. Three house-sized outlet pipes shoot horizontal flumes of water from the base of Summersville Dam, enveloping the entire area in a continuous mist. A deep thunderous rumble accompanies the foaming water raging below the dam. From the moment you launch your raft, you are caught in this maelstrom.

The first two Class V's, Bud's Boner and Insignificant, prep you for the even more punishing water of Pillow Rock and Lost Paddle Rapids. Lost Paddle is 1500 feet of Class V waves. Two more big runs, Shipwreck and Iron Ring (Class V), keep the adrenaline rushing until you reach Sweet's Falls, the highlight of the trip. Sweet's drops 14 feet into a churning vortex that usually manages to overturn rafts or eject passengers. If you dump at Sweet's, you will have an extra measure of humiliation added to your terror: this is a popular lunch stop and the crowd is always spoiling for a spectacular mishap. The first sound that will reach your ears should you lose it at Sweet's will be the hooting guffaws of the lunch bunch. Then head an hour north on Highway 19 and Interstate 79 and stop at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park where you'll camp for the night and get ready for the climax of your trip.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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