West Virginia Whitewater Raftng
A Hidden World of Adventure—Explore the Outdoor Playground of West Virginia
Sponsored Article: This content was specially produced for O.A.R.S Whitewater Rafting by ACE Adventure Resort, the Eastern U.S. leader in rafting, kayaking & multi-sport adventures.
Imagine the sun rising over a mist-filled canyon snaking through rugged terrain, the green forest canopy alive with diverse species of birds. It might sound like some far off land, but it’s all available at ACE Adventure Resort, within a day’s drive of major metropolitan areas such as New York, Atlanta, Norfolk and St. Louis. Tucked away in the green hills of Appalachia, the wilds of West Virginia are the eastern United States’ best kept secret, a playground for those who want to escape and explore. The New and Gauley Rivers cut through the ancient Appalachians, roaring over massive boulders, beckoning the adventurer within you.
The most popular whitewater rafting trips in West Virginia include:
1. New River Gorge Rafting
Hard sandstone cliffs line the heart of the 1000-foot-deep New River Gorge. Part of a venerable river system older than the Appalachian Mountains, the whitewater of the Lower New River shows different faces throughout the year. Seasonal rains fill the river with booming rapids in spring and early summer. Before the budding trees unfurl their leaves, rafters can see remnants of the coal towns that sprung up along the river banks during the early 20th century coal boom.
By mid-June, the Lower New usually settles into consistent, fun whitewater that will bring a smile to your face. There’s still plenty of action to get your heart going, but more time to relax and swim between rapids. Fall brings vibrant color to the Appalachian hardwood forest, the annual Bridge Day celebration and whitewater that’s as much about the scenery as it is about the rapids. You can enjoy the Lower New in one day or let the river rock you to sleep at your riverside camp on a Lower New overnight trip.
2. Family Rafting - New River
Rolling through lush green mountains, this milder section of the New River is tailor-made for lazy days on the water. Float downstream together in a raft or strike out in duckies (one and two-person inflatable kayaks) for a different perspective of fun, gentle rapids such as Ledges and Silos. Rafting the Upper New is like gliding through a West Virginia history book. Glimpse the structures of Henry Ford’s silica mine, just one of many interests of early 20th century industrialists in the area.
The McKendree Hospital, a state-run hospital established for coal miners in 1900 is hidden within hiking distance on a lush terrace above the river. And for the natural history lovers, a side hike at Dowdy Creek takes you into the microclimate of a primordial grotto cooled by a spring-fed waterfall. On the river, float the long, relaxing pools and splash around with your family, laughing, playing, connecting. If one day isn’t enough, the Upper New overnight trip is the ticket. Your kids will love you for it and they’ll remember your adventure together forever.
3. Summer Gauley Rafting
A Summer Gauley whitewater rafting trip is a private getaway. As you drift along the wooded banks of the Gauley, spend your time in the pools between rapids basking in the summer sun, taking a cool dip in the river or soaking up the view. When it’s time for whitewater, you’ll experience the rapids of the Gauley River like few have, navigating between house sized boulders and lining up for the next drop. Your water craft is determined by the flows that morning, but the steep drops and tight channels guarantee fun whether in a ducky, 12-foot or 14-foot raft. For the ultimate getaway, the Summer Gauley Overnight trip gives you two days of adventure on the Gauley River along with fresh grilled dinner and a night beneath the stars.
4. Upper Gauley Rafting
More than 25 rapids. Six Class Vs (some say seven). Some of the best whitewater you’ll ever experience. The Upper Gauley River boasts classics such as Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring, and “the Colosseum of rapids,” Sweet’s Falls. You will stop just below Sweet’s falls amid the magnificent rock formations for a hot, grilled lunch while overlooking the 13-foot drop into churning Gauley River whitewater. Just upstream of Lost Paddle — three steep drops forming the longest rapid on the Upper — you’ll float past the site where Confederate forces, badly outnumbered, fled across the Gauley at its confluence with the Meadow River. Limited guaranteed release dates in September and October give Gauley Season a festival-like atmosphere. You can see it in the faces of the rafters on the water and feel it back at basecamp after your trip. For those who can’t get enough of the Gauley, there are Gauley overnight trips that promise two days of Gauley River excitement and rustic luxury at ACE’s private campsites.
5. Lower Gauley Season Rafting
The spectacular geology of the Gauley River is front and center when you raft the whitewater of the Lower Gauley River. Rapids such as Canyon Doors, Diagonal Ledges and Cliffside show off exposed cross sections of the New River and Kanawha formations in grand scale. The same rocks that create the challenging rapids of the Lower Gauley created different challenges for loggers trying to get their product downriver. Woods Ferry, your first major rapid on the lower, marks the starting point for the first successful large-scale log drive in the 1880’s.
Even though you’ll be riding in the most technically advanced rafts available rather than log piles, you still must stay focused on the rapids of the Lower Gauley. Long rollercoaster wave trains such as Upper and Lower Stairstep, big holes such as Backender and Hell Hole, and boulder gardens like those at Upper Mash will keep even the most accomplished rafters on their toes. Most rafters enjoy the one-day trip, but if you want to linger awhile, ACE’s two-day Gauley trip pairs the Lower and Upper for an unforgettable Gauley River whitewater rafting and riverside camping experience.
6. Multi-Day Trips aren’t limited to Rafting
Years ago, ACE Adventure Resort recognized that as much as people loved whitewater rafting, they also wanted to explore West Virginia along trails, trees, rocks and lakes. ACE’s 1500-acre resort was created to provide an adventure for everyone. Using the natural formation of the land and the abundance of rocks and trees, ACE developed a wide array of adventures ranging from easy to challenging.
There are so many ways to make the most of your vacation at ACE. Enjoy extensive trail system on ATVs, mountain bikes, horseback, or just your feet. Or, if your tastes are more vertical, try climbing and rappelling the rock faces of the New River Gorge or ACE’s high ropes challenge course. For the ultimate view of the ACE’s woodland setting, fly 50 to 100 feet above the edge of the New River gorge on ten zip lines, including side by side lines for racing. Other activities include paintball, lake tour kayaking, and, for the kid in you, ACE’s mud obstacle course. No matter the adventure, you’ll come away with a smile on your face and a sense of accomplishment.