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The Dries

UPDATE, 03/19: American Whitewater has announced recreational release dates for the Dries in 2019! We’ve added a several extra dates to take advantage of the new, increased minimum flows. All these dates are listed and are now bookable here. (Scroll to the month of May for first release dates.)

1. In the 1930s, downstream of what rafters and kayakers today call “the Lower New River,” Union Carbide drilled a massive tunnel through Gauley Mountain to divert flow from the New River for power generation. The tunnel and it’s corresponding dam are still there, in operation today, as is the roughly 5.5-mile de-watered section of river bed below the dam affectionately known as, “The Dries.” (If you’ve rafted the Lower New with us, you got off the river about 4 miles upstream of the Dam.)

2. But The Dries are not always dry. Hawk’s Nest Tunnel can support 10,000 cubic feet per second of flow. So what happens when more than that comes barreling downstream? That’s when Hawk’s Nest Dam opens its floodgates to release the excess flow and wet The Dries. The level at which The Dries get wet varies depending on the flow upstream, so this section of river tends to be more catch it when you can, rather than a reliable river run. That’s one of the reasons why we don’t run trips on it…or do we?

DCIM100GOPRO
DCIM100GOPRO

3.  With the 2017 relicensing of Hawk’s Nest Dam, downstream recreation is more of a factor. We’ll be the beneficiary of nine scheduled releases per year (seven June through August) at flows that will give us a wonderfully twisty and turny river run. Here’s what we know about scheduled releases on The Dries.

5. Releases will be in the neighborhood of 2200 CFS (cubic feet per second). That’s enough to give us a boulder-filled, channelized course of about class III, without blowing it out to more advanced levels.

6. The Dries have never been 100% dry. Hawk’s Nest Dam was always required to let some water into the river bed. Until now, that minimum flow was 100 CFS. Nevertheless, in 2012, a group of AOTG guides set out on an exploratory ducky mission in The Dries at that level, and we found it to be just a hair too low. Post relicensing, the new minimum flow is 200 CFS in the summer. We fully expect to have a magnificent intermediate ducky trip on which you can join us most days of the summer.

7. In terms of scenery, The Dries is more tight and curvy with towering cliffs right at the water’s edge, than the wide open bigness of the river upstream. Expect to see more rock around you, and less open sky.

8. Can we run fishing trips down there, too? We’ll see!

If you’re a private boater looking for recreational release dates only, check out  American Whitewater.

Ducky Dries 36
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