From the heart-racing thrill of jumping into a raft at the base of Summersville Dam to that, “We did it!” feeling at end of the famous stretch of whitewater, the Upper Gauley is known as one of the best whitewater rafting destinations in the world. But, what is it that draws raft guides and paddlers to the river every fall? While there are too many reasons to count, we’ve distilled it down to the top five reasons—and the corresponding rapids—that get people to come out and raft the Class V Upper Gauley time and time again.
“Waking up before I run the Gauley is like Christmas morning. I’m up before my alarm goes off and just can’t wait for the thrill of what the river is going to bring that day. I’ve been rafting the Gauley for over 15 years and every trip is different and new.” – Diana Clarkson
“The Fall Gauley is the perfect combination of challenging and intimidating, while at the same time feeling relaxed and well-cared for. It’s just enough adrenaline, mixed with care-free happiness.” – Annie Renzetti
Working as a Team: Insignificant
While it might be called Insignificant, the first Class V rapid of the Upper Gauley is known to do everything in its power to defy its name. The long and technical rapid is guarded by rock soldiers who try to stave off rafters, and the only way to maneuver safely through the Class V is to work together as a team. Luckily, learning this lesson at the beginning of the day is exactly what paddlers need to help them succeed through the rest of the Upper Gauley’s action.
Living in the Moment: Pillow Rock
hen you paddle out into the pool above Pillow Rock Rapid, whether it is your first time or 100th, the roar of what is ahead pushes every other thought from your brain. You won’t be worried about what’s going on back at the office, you won’t be thinking about what you have to do when you get off the river—you will experience truly living in the moment.
Pushing Our Limits: Lost Paddle
Too often, life gets monotonous. We get used to doing the same thing each day and knowing exactly how it will turn out. When you paddle whitewater, that monotony disappears. With four separate sections, Lost Paddle Rapid never offers the same experience twice. It pushes us to stay on our game. It keeps us paddling longer than any other rapid on the river, and reminds us what it is like to really push to achieve our goals.
Facing the Unknown: Iron Ring
Whitewater has a way of reminding us of the unpredictable and unknown factors of life, and when it comes to Iron Ring you don’t know what you are up against until you are in it. A horizon line hides the tumultuous rapid from view, and once you drop into the action it is over before you know what hit you.
The Feeling of Accomplishment: Sweet Falls
Whether you rocket over the drop or sail smoothly off Sweets Falls’ 14-foot cascade, there is nothing that compares to the feeling of looking back up at that waterfall and marveling at what you and your team have just accomplished. The last of the five Class V rapids of the Upper Gauley, there could not be a better grand finale than Sweets Falls.
And once you have experienced the pure joy of living in the moment, the adrenaline of facing the unknown, and worked as a team to go beyond the limits of what you thought was possible, that feeling of accomplishment—and the cold beer waiting for you on the bus—could not be more deserved.