The Gauley River is one of the best known whitewater rafting rivers in the world. The sheer number of rapids through which it descends — more than 100 over a course of 24 miles — attracts thousands of rafters in spring and summer. But its fame is due largely to its character in autumn, when water impounded upstream at Summersville Lake is emptied. During Gauley Season, as that period in September and October are known, the river downstream grows into virtual flume of Class III-V+ chutes and cataracts.
The Gauley is generally divided into two whitewater rafting runs, each approximately 12 miles long. The Upper Gauley is the most difficult and requires that rafters possess paddling skill and have had prior rafting experience. This upper section grows powerful in autumn, but is highly technical throughout the year. The Lower Gauley is less difficult, and its rapids are rated Class III to V. The lower half of the whitewater section of the river is often run on the day before a run on the upper half, to provide rafters a two-day adventure with a full day’s warm-up.
Outfitters who are licensed to guide trips on the Gauley are often also licensed to guide on the nearby New River and routinely offer two-day rafting packages that combine excursions on both rivers. The New is often also run as a warm up for the more difficult upper Gauley.
Lodging near Gauley River Rafting
Rafting Area Location
The Gauley River whitewater rafting area is located in the northern New River Gorge Region. Further information on lodging, dining, travel, and recreation may be found by exploring the regional information.
Map of Gauley River Rafting Area
Expeditions on the Upper Gauley run most often launch below the Summersville Dam and end at the National Park Service’s river access at the mouth of Masons Branch. The Lower Gauley launches at the Masons Branch access and ends above Swiss. Outfitters transport rafters back to base camps, many of which are located near Oak Hill and Fayetteville.
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