The Upper Gauley flows through the Gauley River National Recreation Area in southern West Virginia. It is the premier iconic Class V run on the East Coast and has some of the best whitewater in the world.

The best time to go is during the Fall Gauley Releases. The Gauley releases were mandated by an act of Congress to provide river flows that support recreation and the flows during this time is generally between 2400 and 2800 cfs. They begin the first weekend after Labor Day and go for six weekends up to Bridge Day weekend (Bridge Day weekend is a celebration of the New River Gorge Bridge across the New River). These flows are perfect as Iron Ring (V) gets hairy at both higher and lower flows.

Every year American Whitewater puts on Gauley Fest which is the biggest paddling festival in the world. All proceeds go to the American Whitewater stewardship fund. The world rafting competition was also held on the Gauley in 2001.

Trip Highlights

Mile 0: Put-in below Summersville Dam. They usually name dams after the town that gets flooded. The Gauley flooded the town of Gad, but they didn't want to name it the Gad Dam so it was named Summersville Dam.

Put-in below Summersville Dam on the Upper Gauley

Put-in below Summersville Dam on the Upper Gauley

Mile 0.8: Initiation (IV) is the first big rapid of the run. There are sieves on the right side.

Mile 2.8: Insignificant (V) is a long rapid with a big pour over at the top. The big long rock half way down on the right is undercut. The name came after the first trip down reported "nothing significant before Pillow."

Insignificant is the first big rapid on the Upper Gauley

Insignificant is the first big rapid on the Upper Gauley

Mile 4.1: Pillow (V) is ridiculous fun if you're a good paddler. It's named for the pillow that forms off the massive boulder on the left. After the pillow is a hydraulic feature known as Toilet Bowl followed by the river splitting around Volkswagen Rock.

Raft hitting the Pillow at Pillow Rock

Raft hitting the Pillow at Pillow Rock

Mile 5.5: Lost Paddle (V) is a series of four drops that occur after the Meadow River enters from the left. The second one has waves known as Hawaii Five-O. There are sieves throughout this long rapid so be careful!

The final drop at Lost Paddle Rapid

The final drop at Lost Paddle Rapid

Mile 6.9: Iron Ring (V) is two drops. The second drop has a hole formed by a rock known as Woodstock that was formed when loggers blasted the rapid to let logs through. This is the most difficult rapid at higher and lower flows.

Woodstock Rock in Iron Ring Rapid

Woodstock Rock in Iron Ring Rapid at 250 cfs

Mile 8.1: Sweet's Falls (V) is a 12 foot drop. The left side of the drop has rock affectionately known as Dildo that stops raft and explodes passengers out. Left of Dildo is a move known as the Melt Down. Below here is Postage Due, a big rock that flips rafts. If go you left of Postage Due, that is known as Box Canyon. This rapid is named after John Sweet, a Gauley River rafting pioneer.

Rafting Sweets Falls

Rafting Sweets Falls

Mile 9.1: Take-out at Mason Branch if you're willing to hike up "kayaker's nightmare" hill.

Mile 12: Take-out above or below Ender Waves.

Thank you Robin Rinaldi for help putting this description together.

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