Upper Gauley River: West Virginia’s Most Challenging Whitewater

The Upper Gauley River is what whitewater is all about…if you’re an experienced rafter. For six weekends every September and October, the gates are opened on Summersville Dam and Gauley Season begins.

While the Gauley River is comprised of two sections, the Upper and Lower Gauley, the Lower Gauley River offers rafting trips for both newer and more experienced rafters, while the Upper Gauley River is the “notorious” section of the river with five class V rapids including Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring, and Sweets Falls that’s best enjoyed by experts.

An Unforgettable Upper Gauley Rafting Experience Awaits

The full-day Upper Gauley trip is jam-packed with excitement, thrills, and a delicious riverside lunch. This is West Virginia’s most challenging commercial whitewater rafting trip, and a rite of passage for any whitewater enthusiast.

The Upper Gauley River is the epitome of whitewater excitement! Consistently ranked as one of the top five rivers to raft in the world and one of the top three in the country, it is the “Whitewater of Legends” and known for its high-volume, technical whitewater. This adventure is recommended for experienced rafters who are ready for an intense challenge–one that will demand all your paddling power.

What Upper Gauley White Water Rafting Offers

The elevation changes as you descend the Upper Gauley rapids, and you’ll drop over 335 feet in less than 12 miles. This is the hallmark of a whitewater river, a rapid decrease in elevation over a short distance.

Five class V rapids, dubbed the “Big Five Rapids” await your descent. Epic rapids, including Lost Paddle and Pillow Rock will become something that you remember forever. That’s especially true given that this is a fall rafting adventure, so fall foliage will likely be in full display, with breathtaking scenic views accompanying you over every stretch of whitewater.

After running all the Big Five Rapids, you’ll take a breather and enjoy a riverside lunch before tackling more Class IV rapids. At the end of the day, you’ll reminisce on the bus ride back to Adventures on the Gorge about the pulse-pounding whitewater, the waves, and even the incredible lunch that you enjoyed riverside. You did it! You rafted the Upper Gauley!

Why Choose Us for Gauley River White Water Rafting?

Whether you elect to raft the Upper Gauley or Lower Gauley, there are unquestionable benefits to choosing Adventures On the Gorge for your next experience rafting the Gauley River:

  • We are the closest adventure and whitewater rafting company to the Upper Gauley put in. That means we are also the closest at the end of the day when you return by bus after a full day of rafting.
  • One of our founding companies, Mountain River Tours, was the first in the area to run commercial trips on the Gauley River. In other words: we’ve been doing this a while and know a thing or two about navigating the Upper Gauley River!
  • Since this is a full-day adventure, we prepare an incredible lunch by the riverside so rafters can fuel up and don’t have to worry about bringing their own snacks or lunches.

Book your Upper Gauley Whitewater Rafting Adventure Today!

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What More Is There to Know About the Gauley River?

The Gauley River is the cream of the whitewater crop. It’s characterized by huge rapids that require tight, technical maneuvering. It’s 24 miles long, but it’s typically split into two sections: the Upper Gauley and the Lower Gauley, the former of which is the section of the river that offers more challenging rapids.

Gauley Season brings the year’s biggest whitewater and draws enthusiasts from across the globe each September and October. Over the course of six weeks, water is released from Summersville Lake on a set schedule, making for wild, powerful, BIG rapids that bring thrills you just can’t get anywhere else.

How Do I Dress for Rafting?

What’s Included in the Upper Gauley River Rafting Adventure?

Transportation is covered from the resort to the river and back again. We’ll also provide all your rafting equipment (helmet, personal flotation device or PFD, paddle, and boat) and a complimentary beverage. This is a full-day trip, so you'll enjoy a riverside lunch partway through the trip.

What Do I Bring?

Bring any medication you need throughout the day, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a change of clothes to keep at the resort to change into after your trip. Guides carry small, waterproof bags to stow necessary medications.

Depending on the time of year and the weather, you may also want a synthetic layer. The Gauley River, due to its nature as a dam-release river, is colder than some naturally flowing rivers. If necessary, wetsuits and splash jackets are available for rent. Call us to book those, too.

What Is the Trip Time?

This is a Full Day Trip.

Depending on the day’s water level, you’ll spend between 4-6 hours on the water, plus shuttle time to and from the river. Trip length and intensity vary based on water levels, which change throughout the season.

What Kind of Boat & Where Will the Guide Be?

Our standard, 16-foot rafts comfortably seat eight rafters and one river guide. Upgrades to 14-foot and 12-foot rafts are available to reserve. Your river guide sits in the back of the raft, where they’ll give instructions for when and how to paddle through each rapid and share their expertise about our rivers and region. Learn more about our guides.

What Are the Requirements and Limits?

The minimum age for this trip is 15 years old. Our PFDs have a maximum chest capacity of 56 inches. All adventurers on the trip should be able to swim.

How Much Are Group Reservations?

Custom quotes are available for groups of over 15. Call us to learn more!

What Safety Precautions Are There?

Our trip leaders and river guides will talk through specific guidelines and requirements on-site before you head for the water.

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Please Note...

Due to high traffic volume online booking is currently running slow. For booking help call (855) 379-8738 or see our Trip Planner.