What Rivers Do We Run?
In West Virginia, commercial outfitters commonly run rafting trips on five rivers – The New, The Gauley, The Cheat, The Shenandoah and the Potomac. WVPRO is made up of outfitters who run trips on the New and Gauley Rivers where over 80% of commercial rafting takes place. The information on this site is geared toward those two rivers.
When Is The Best Time To Go Rafting?
Short answer – whenever you want to and the snow is not three feet deep. Seriously, we run the river from March through November and you can choose any time during those months based on what kind of trip you want and the considerations that are most important to you. We’ll give you the facts and let you decide.
Late March – Mid-May – We begin running trips on the New and Gauley in early spring. This is the time of year when we get the highest water levels on the New. In fact, our high water cut-off on the New River is over twice the average flow of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. April and May offer an opportunity to experience the biggest whitewater east of the Mississippi. If you are an adventurous person, this is what you’re looking for. The water and weather are both cooler this time of year, so it is usually best to plan on renting a wetsuit and paddling jacket for your trip. Guests who come in the spring are those who want to experience the New at its most challenging. The Gauley is often running in May as well – some outfitters offer Spring Gauley trips. Best reason to raft: Water levels are usually high, the ride is fantastic
Mid-May through Mid-June - If you are rafting just one time during the year, this may be the best time to come. Mid-May through mid-June usually offers the best combination of good weather and good water. The water and air temperatures are such that wetsuits are no longer needed and the water levels are still running upward toward their spring peaks on both the New and often the Gauley, providing a great whitewater ride. Best reason to raft: Good weather, good water, great ride
Mid-June through August – Summer is here! Warm to hot, sunny days and less challenging water levels make this a great time of year for first-time rafters to experience the New. If being warm and comfortable on the river is really important to you or you want to try rafting for your first time when the river is not as intimidating, this is the time of year for you. This is also a great time of the year for a family float trip on the Upper new with younger children.
As the water drops on the Lower New, the rapids change and get more technically difficult creating a very different ride than that you get during spring high water. Although not as intense as the ride at higher flows, play spots begin to appear that allow for surfing (one of the highlights of summer trips). The whitewater rafting itself is still a whole lot of fun, and the water temperature allows you to float and swim in the pools between rapids. Water levels on the Gauley vary with local and regional rainfall and some companies run summer Gauley Trips that are challenging and fun. Best reason to raft: Warm weather and water – fun in the sun!
September through October - Gauley Season is the Grand Finale of whitewater rafting in West Virginia. The Army Corps of Engineers provides 22 days of scheduled release at the absolute optimum flow for rafting during the months of September and October. This makes the Gauley the destination for serious whitewater enthusiasts from all over the country and all over the world. The Lower Gauley is as challenging as the New at high spring levels and also boasts some of the most spectacular scenery of any whitewater river. The Upper Gauley is one of the most difficult commercially rafted stretches of river in the country and consistantly ranks in the top ten among all rivers in the world in comprehensive surveys of serious whitewater paddlers. Remember to make your reservations early, as Fall Gauley rafting is extremely popular due to the short season, a consistent water level and limited availability. If you want a beautiful and relaxing trip, the fall season on the Lower New is for you. The river is relativley incrowded, as most of the raffic this time of year is over on the Gauley and the scenery is superb as the leaves start to turn. Best Reason to raft: Guaranteed flows on the Gauley – Yee Ha!
What Should I Wear?
During the spring and fall rafting seasons, we suggest wearing wool or synthetic clothing such as polypropylene or pile. Avoid wearing cotton and blue jeans, which will make you cold! Bring a sweater, several pairs of socks and possibly a pair of fingerless gloves – all made of wool, polypropylene or pile. Wet Suits and Paddling Jackets are available to rent for the day or you may provide your own.
In the summertime, nylon shorts and/or swimsuits are usually adequate. You may also want to bring a rain jacket to protect you from cool wind and rain on cloudy days. Gym shoes or active wear sandals are the recommended footwear. And don’t forget to bring sunscreen along with a towel, a set of dry clothes and a pair of shoes to leave in your vehicle. You’ll appreciate getting warm and dry after being wet all day!
Who Can Paddle Whitewater?
The different sections of river that are available on the New and Gauley Rivers vary in intensity and level of physical participation required. This variety allows us to offer trips suitable for almost any age or level of physical ability. Scenic float trips on the Upper Section of the New River feature mild rapids and are great for families with children as young as 6 yrs old and senior citizens. For those who want a greater challenge, the Lower New in the Spring, Summer and Fall has moderate to very challenging rapids, depending on the time of year and the specific river level on the day of your trip. The Gauley River offers more difficult and physically challenging trips for those who want a more intense whitewater experience. When considering one of our more difficult trips, It is important to understand the physical demands of that particular section of river and make sure that all of the members of your group are up to the challenge
Warning! Size Matters
It is a delicate subject, but we strongly reccomend that particpants on our more difficult trips especially (Lower New River in the Spring, as well as any trip on the Gauley) be relatively height/weight proportionate. The physical demands of more intense trips, as well as the physical limitations of our equipment, necessarily restrict the ability of very large people to particpate (Lifejackets are only so big and may not fit very large people – if the lifejacket does not fit, you cannot go under any circumstances on any rafting trip). If you are booking a trip for yourself or a group, please give this warning serious consideration.
What Are the Minimum Ages?
West Virginia outfitters have suggested minimum age limits with each trip but may take certain factors into account such as parental participation, physical size, maturity and the stretch of whitewater being attempted. Our minimum age requirements have been developed over many years of experience. They reflect careful consideration and are based on our best judgement in light of the physical, mental and emotional demands that may be made made on participants on each specific section of river. Our easiest trips accomodate children as young as five or six years old. Our most difficult trips have a minimum age of 15-16 years old. Consult your outfitter of choice for specific requirements concerning minimum age guidelines for the section of river that you are considering.
How Do I Judge the Difficulty of a River?
West Virginia outfitters use the widely accepted international system of rating rapids. This system classifies rapids on a scale of I – VI, (Class I, being the easiest, and VI the most difficult). This is a subjective scale and depends on many factors, including water levels and the type of craft being paddled. The Upper New is a Class I-III section. The Lower New has rapids up to Class IV+ or V depending on water levels. The Lower Gauley has Class IV+ – V rapids. And our most difficult river section, the Upper Gauley has rapids that are considered Class V+.
Is Rafting Safe?
Whitewater rafting is an outdoor adventure experience, and by its essential nature has inherent risks and dangers which are impossible to completely eliminate. With that understanding, our outfitters work hard to manage and to minimize the risk to our guests through a comprehensive plan that includes good equipment, good training, and good policies and procedures on the river. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources regulations require all guides to meet specific first aid and safety standards. All WVPRO outfitters provide first aid kits, river rescue equipment and appropriate emergency communication devices on the river. Life jackets must be worn at all times on the river and helmets are required in advanced whitewater. Safety procedures are explained in detail prior to and during your trip and it is every rafters’ responsibility to adhere to these procedures.
What about my Medical Condition?
Please inform your outfitter and and make your Trip Leader and your guide aware of any medical conditions you may have (pregnancy, heart or respiratory related conditions, diabetes, asthma, allergies to bee stings, food, etc.) It is your responsibility under the West Virginia Whitewater Responsibility ACT to provide this information. If you are on medication that is necessary, bring that medication with you and your guide will keep it in a safe place and provide the opportunity for you to take it at the required time. It is highly recommended that you consult your physician prior to rafting if you have a particular medical condition that could be affect your ability to participate fully in the trip or present a treatment problem in a wilderness setting.
- The New and the Gauley are two of the premier whitewater rivers in the U.S.
- Over 160,000 visitors raft with West Virginia outfitters annually
- We have been rafting on the New and Gauley Rivers for over 40 years
- Over 60% of the US Population is less than a day’s drive away
- There are 12 rafting outfitters in West Virginia
- States most represented by commercial guests: New York, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina & Washington D.C.
Who Goes Rafting?
Rafting Participation by market segment from AO’s research of participants in outfitted trips nation wide.
- Raft with spouse, 56.8%
- Raft with children, 40.9%
- Raft with friends, 47.1%
- Raft with business peers, 13.8%
- Raft with church groups, 10.3%
- Raft with organized tour groups, 5.7%
- Raft with youth groups (scouts, schools), 8.0%
- Raft with social or community clubs, 1.1%
- Raft with other type of groups, 1.1%