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Gauley River National Recreation Area

West Virginia: Wild and WonderfulP. O. Box 246
Glen Jean, WV 25846

Phone
Park Headquarters
(304) 465-0508
Canyon Rim Visitor Center
(304) 574-2115

Explore the Gauley River!

BEST Places to PicnicWild and Wonderful

The 25 miles of free-flowing Gauley River and the six miles of the Meadow River pass through scenic gorges and valleys containing a wide variety of natural and cultural features. The Gauley River contains several class V+ rapids, making it one of the most adventurous white water boating rivers in the east.

Gauley River Whitewater

Dropping more than 668 feet through 28 miles of rugged terrain, the Gauley River's complex stretch of whitewater features more than 100 rapids with a steep gradient, technical runs, an incredible volume of water and huge waves. Its vigorous rapids, scenic quality and inaccessibility combine to make Gauley River one of the premier whitewater runs in the world.
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park

Nestled on the rim of the Gauley River Canyon near Summersville, West Virginia, Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park is an important Civil War battle site. This Civil War battle represented the failure of a Confederate drive to regain control of the Kanawha Valley.

Nature & Science

The Gauley River Basin is part of the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau where the age of the rock strata exceeds 300 million years before present. The high knobs and ridges are deeply dissected by young streams that create narrow canyons with steep slopes.

The Gauley River begins in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, at an elevation of about 4,600 feet. Flowing generally west-southwest and draining 1,422 square miles, the Gauley meets the New River at Gauley Bridge and forms the Kanawha River, a major tributary of the Ohio River. The mouth of the Gauley River, 107 miles from its source, is at an elevation of about 600 feet. 

The resulting average rate of fall is 37.4 feet per mile. Downstream from Summersville Dam where the boundary of the recreation area begins, the river has cut a gorge of up to 500 feet deep in places. The Gauley River flows through the gorge for approximately 24 miles with a stream gradient of 28 feet per mile. Within the gorge, the river is characterized by alternating pools and rapids with torrential water, boulders and exposed bedrock.

Vegetation is diverse and abundant. Extremes in topography, elevation and microclimate have caused tremendous variation in plant life. Most of the recreation area is below 2,000 feet and contains the central hardwood forest type. 

Tree species found in this timber type include the red and white oak, American beech, yellow poplar, hemlock and dogwood. Such vegetation supports a wide variety of wildlife species.

There are many rare and threatened species within the recreation area. They include one federally threatened plant species, Virginia spiraea, and five category 2 species, Barbara's buttons, Allegheny woodrat, cerulean warbler, eastern hellbender and finescale saddled darter. 

Category 2 species may be proposed for threatened or endangered status, but more data is required to confirm the need for such protection. State-listed species of concern found within the recreation area include nine plants, one bird, one butterfly, one fish and two amphibians.

Whitewater

Thousands of whitewater enthusiasts come to the Gauley every fall season, to paddle what is considered by many to be the one of the best whitewater rivers in the country. Gauley Season begins the first weekend after Labor Day, and continues for six weekends (five 4-day weekends, and one 2-day weekend). 

Dropping more than 668 feet through 28 miles of rugged terrain, the Gauley River's complex stretch of whitewater features more than 100 rapids with a steep gradient, technical runs, an incredible volume of water and huge waves. 

Its vigorous rapids, scenic quality and inaccessibility combine to make Gauley River one of the premier whitewater runs in the world.

Whitewater rafting attracts over 60,000 adventurers to the Gauley River each year. The upper Gauley offers tremendous class III to V+ drops in steep, turbulent chutes such as Pillow Rock, Iron Ring and Sweet's Falls, and rocky routes that demand constant maneuvering such as Lost Paddle and Shipwreck. 

This section of the river requires experience and minimum age of 16. The lower Gauley is a 12-mile stretch, rated class III to V that feels like a watery roller coaster (minimum age 12 - 14).

Did You Know?
Dropping more than 668 feet through 28 miles of rugged terrain, the Gauley River's complex stretch of whitewater features more than 100 rapids with a steep gradient, technical runs, an incredible volume of water and huge waves.

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