Best time to visit West Virginia

Gauley Season in West Virginia 2024

The most anticipated period of the year among rafting communities

Best time: early September–late October

Gauley Season
Whitewater rafting on the Lower Gauley River
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The Gauley River can be enjoyed year-round, but the best time is the so-called Gauley Season. The term refers to the recreational water release from the base of Summersville Dam, which occurs annually on selected dates between early September and late October. These releases create 26 mi (42 km) of some of the world's best whitewater with more than a hundred Class III, IV, and V rapids. The season draws adrenaline junkies from all 50 states and beyond.

Experienced whitewater enthusiasts start their adventure from the challenging Upper Gauley, famed for Pillow Rock, Iron Ring, Sweets Falls, and other mind-blowing rapids. While the Lower section of the Gauley River boasts the most stunning sceneries. For the newbies and kids aged 6+, the best place to start is the Upper New River, offering over 25 Class III through V rapids, as well as Class II-III rapids and pools for relaxation. The main bonus of the trip is the finish line at the iconic New River Gorge Bridge.

After all, for those who can't make it in fall, whitewater rafting is also possible in spring and summer, but without the splendor of the Gauley Season. In addition to rafting, visitors can also engage in many other activities in the area, including hiking, zip-lining, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, and rappelling.

Whitewater rafting companies

There are several companies in the area offering the Gauley Season experience. Adventures on the Gorge provides guided whitewater rafting tours on the Upper and Lower New River as well as the Lower and Upper Gauley River. The company also has other adventures to choose from: zip-lining, climbing, rappelling, fishing, kayaking, and other activities. New & Gauley River Adventures, as you can tell by the name, organize rafting adventures on the New and Gauley rivers. The company also gives a chance to go horseback riding, mountain biking, and fishing. River Expeditions is another excellent provider of guided whitewater rafting trips on the Gauley and New rivers. They also run zip-line and canopy tours and ATV tours alongside fishing, paintball, and rock climbing. ACE Adventures run guided whitewater rafting trips on the Lower and Upper New River and the Upper and Lower Gauley River. Besides the rafting, guests can enjoy stand-up paddleboarding, horseback riding, hiking, paintball, mountain biking, and playing at the ACE Adventures Water Park.

Practical info

When is the best time to go rafting in Gauley River?

The ideal period to visit Gauley River in West Virginia for rafting is between early September and late October for the Gauley Season. The recreational water releases from Summersville Dam cause over 100 Class III, IV, and V rapids over 26 miles (42km), making it a favorite destination for adrenaline seekers worldwide. Show more

Which section of the river do beginners start rafting in Gauley?

For anyone starting Gauley River rafting, the Upper New River is the best section to begin. It offers over 25 Class III-V rapids with relaxing Class II-III rapids and pools, a perfect balance for beginners aged 6+ getting introduced to whitewater experiences. Experienced adventurers can start with the challenging Upper Gauley, featuring Pillow Rock, Iron Ring, and Sweets Falls rapids. Additionally, the Lower Gauley River section boasts breathtaking sceneries. Show more

What other outdoor activities are available for visitors in West Virginia?

Besides the world-class rafting in Gauley River, visitors to West Virginia can engage in numerous outdoor activities such as mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and zip-lining. The state also boasts exciting historical tours, antique shopping, national and state parks like the famous Appalachian Trail, and artistic towns, including Charleston and Martinsburg. Show more

Which companies offer guided rafting tours in Gauley River?

For visitors seeking guided whitewater rafting tours in Gauley River, several companies offer these services in the area. Adventures on the Gorge and New & Gauley River Adventures provide guided tours to the Upper and Lower New and Upper and Lower Gauley River. Similarly, River Expeditions covers Gauley and New rivers, including canopy tours, zip-lining, and ATV tours. ACE Adventures offers paddle-boarding, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, paintball, and visits to the ACE Adventures Water Park in addition to rafting. Show more

When does the recreational water release in Summersville Dam occur?

In Gauley River, the Summersville Dam releases recreational water from early September to late October annually, marking the Gauley Season. This period's popularity draws enthusiasts worldwide seeking the ultimate whitewater rafting adventure with over 100 Class III, IV, and V rapids over 26 miles (42km) created by the water diversion, making it one of the best experiences globally. Show more

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Authors: Olha Savych