Media & Press Resort History and Region

The origins of whitewater rafting in West Virginia can be traced back to the mid-1960s when college-aged adventurers took Army surplus rafts and taught themselves how to navigate the New River. The nearby Gauley River offered even more challenges with plenty of rapids, and it was not unusual to see a dedicated group pulling out of the river to scout the rapids and determine the best routes in which to navigate them.

Early trips were conducted for fun with friends and family. As the word got out, however, opportunities to turn a profit by selling river trips emerged, and a fledgling industry was born.

In the late 1970s a group of friends from Cincinnati discovered West Virginia rafting and set about turning their passion into a livelihood. Before long, the friends were part of a growing industry operating four separate rafting outfitters near the town of Fayetteville. These companies – Mountain River Tours, Class VI, the Rivermen and Songer Whitewater – expanded their offerings to include campgrounds and cabins as well as foodservice facilities.

In 2007 the owners merged their operations, named the new entity Adventures on the Gorge (AOTG) and embarked upon aggressive expansion plans. Today AOTG is located directly on the New River Gorge and is an “adventure resort” with an array of activities, accommodations and dining options.

In the late 1960s, West Virginia’s New River was wild, enthusiasm for whitewater rafting was increasing, and several young men from Ohio and Pennsylvania found themselves making a splash as river rafting outfitters

But thanks to considerable foresight, big dreams and some well-timed funding, those one-time competitors are well-positioned for growth and profit as co-founders of Adventures on the Gorge (AOTG), a multi-faceted adventure resort on the New River Gorge with lodging, restaurants, bars, aerial adventures, lake adventures and, of course, river rafting.

From humble beginnings with used rafts, trailers for offices and tents as living quarters, outfitters on some of the world’s best whitewater have managed to turn their makeshift rafting gigs into serious businesses. And then, when the industry began to contract, they reinvented themselves by merging, expanding their experiential offerings and developing an “adventure resort.”

Located on the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, W. Va., AOTG is the largest resort of its kind in the country and is leading the travel world toward a whole new way of enjoying a vacation.

The origins of whitewater rafting in West Virginia can be traced back to the mid-1960s when college-aged adventurers took Army surplus rafts and taught themselves how to navigate the New River. The nearby Gauley River offered even more challenges with plenty of rapids, and it was not unusual to see a dedicated group pulling out of the river to scout the rapids and determine the best routes in which to navigate them.

Early trips were conducted for fun with friends and family. As the word got out, the rafting enthusiasts began selling river trips, and a fledgling industry was born.

In 1969 Mountain River Tours (MRT) opened for business and was just the second commercial whitewater rafting company in West Virginia. Later, a group of friends from Cincinnati discovered West Virginia rafting, worked for MRT and then broke off to form their own rafting company, Class VI River Runners.

Before long, the friends were part of a growing industry featuring many rafting outfitters near the town of Fayetteville. Among those companies was Rivermen operated by even more Cincinnati natives as well as Songer Whitewater which was created by a doctor and a businessman from Pennsylvania.

After purchasing land and expanding their offerings to include campgrounds and cabins as well as foodservice facilities, these outfitters – and several others near the New River Gorge – entered a period of solid growth with interest in rafting exploding and peaking in the mid-1990s.

Less than 10 years after the new millennium began, however, the number of rafters had dropped considerably. Outfitters closed their doors or looked for new ways to generate business. In the case of MRT, Class VI and Rivermen, they merged their operations, named the new entity Adventures on the Gorge (AOTG) and embarked upon aggressive expansion plans. In 2011, Songer Whitewater joined the company.

Today AOTG is located directly on the New River Gorge. Rafting still leads the way, but visitors are also attracted by a wider array of activities such as zip lining, rock climbing, stand-up paddle boarding, disc golf and more. The resort also offers accommodations including campgrounds, cabins and luxury rental homes. Dining options include Smokey’s, Chetty’s Pub, Rendezvous Lounge, riverside lunches for rafters and catering for special events. Live music is performed regularly in two lounges.

The result is a much more diverse experience than just rafting.