Whitewater Rafting 101

Ready for the ride of your life? West Virginia’s whitewater is some of the best in the world, offering multiple seasons of epic rapids and a variety of river sections that fit any skill level. Rafting here is an experience like no other, but it’s normal to feel the pitter-patter of nerves mixed in with your excitement. Here are some tips for first-timers and adventurers who are coming back after a dry spell. 

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Find the River for You

Whitewater rapids are rated Class I-V. Class I is kid friendly, mild, and doable on a duckie. The other end of the spectrum isn’t quite as inviting for first-timers. Class V rapids are the highest class legally allowed for commercial trips–imagine extreme drops and roaring rapids that require absolutely all of your paddling power and technical know-how. 

Most rafters tend to choose something right in the middle with Class II-IV rapids, which you’ll find on the Lower New River or the Lower Gauley River. You’ll find challenge, thrill, and adrenaline here without the physical and mental demands of Class V rapids on the Gauley River, which is better suited for experienced rafters.

Beyond the rivers themselves, Adventures on the Gorge offers lots of options for express trips, half-day trips, full-day trips, overnight trips with riverside camping, or multi-day trips with resort breaks in between. 

Understand Seasonal Changes

Mother Nature can’t be planned (that’s one of the reasons why we love her!), but certain times of the year offer different experiences. Early spring is when the water is really pumping on the New River, summer brings the best weather for staying comfortable while wet, and fall presents the year’s biggest whitewater during Gauley Season.

Conquer Your Fears 

Nothing compares to the excitement of whitewater or the peace and confidence that comes with its aftermath. We love seeing an adventurer who was a bit nervous before their trip return to the resort with a huge smile, already planning when they can get back on the water. You can do this! And remember, your river guide will be there every moment of the way.

Know What to Expect

After arriving at the resort and checking in, you’ll gear up and make your way to the shuttle. Before you get to the river, your guide will chat through all the safety protocols you need to know.

What about the actual rafts? Our standard, 16-foot rafts comfortably seat eight rafters and one river guide. These rafts are professional grade and built to withstand intense rapids, boulders, and the nature of the river. Your river guide is a professional who sits in the back of the raft, navigating your group’s direction while you and the other rafters act as the driving force to power through the rapids. Your guide will give instructions for when and how to paddle, and they’ll share their expertise about our rivers and region. 

Dress Accordingly 

What about clothing? Think quick-dry shorts, bathing suits, or a waterproof rash guard. We suggest avoiding cotton since it can’t insulate your body once it’s wet (especially in colder conditions). Flip flops aren’t allowed, so make sure to bring sturdy shoes that’ll stay put. We’ll provide you with a life jacket, helmet, and paddle. 

Be Present

Rafting is an active-participation sport, so stay in the moment and paddle with your guide’s direction. Thankfully, being present is a little easier when you’re surrounded by the beauty of Southern West Virginia. Most of all, focus on the fun!

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