The Gauley River National Recreation Area

Gauley River Overview

Within the Gauley River National Recreation Area lies beautifully remote wilderness, much of which is accessible only by river. The park protects sections of the Gauley and Meadow Rivers, sought for their world-class rafting and boating conditions.

Most visitors access the park at Summersville Dam, the only area with well-established vehicle access.  Dam releases upstream and the Meadow River determine the water levels of the Gauley River. The release of Summersville Dam during the Fall season provides the only guaranteed conditions for whitewater boating.

It happens every fall for two months during West Virginia’s newly declared fifth season, Gauley Season. Hundreds of thousands visit each year to catch a window of perfect whitewater conditions. Stunning scenery, wildlife, and recreation are all worth the journey down the river.

Learn More

The Upper Gauley

The Upper Gauley is an advanced whitewater run with numerous class V rapids. Dozens of huge waves and the “Big Five” make the Upper Gauley a rafting and kayaking milestone. The class V rapids on the Upper Gauley are technical, treacherous, including Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring, and Sweet’s Falls. The rocks and beaches at Sweet’s Falls serve as a communal lunch spot and spectator viewing area for action on the falls. Previous rafting experience is recommended for this high adrenaline ride, and rafters should prepare to paddle hard!


The Lower Gauley

Downriver and further into the wild flows the Lower Gauley. Flanked by mountains and cliff sides, the scenery on this stretch of river is dramatic and  peaceful. Long wave trains and roller coaster waves spread across 11.5 miles. Class III and IV rapids are more beginner friendly friendly challenge. Experience postcard moments at Canyon Doors amidst tall sandstone cliffs. The Lower G has a bit more breath between each rapid, and time to take in the scenery. Whitewater rapids include boulder gardens, roostertail waves, and undercuts.

Learn More

North America's Best Single Day Rafting Trip

Welcome to the Gauley River Rapids an online guide exploring all the rapids of the Upper and Lower Gauley River. Here you can view videos, aerial photos, images and written descriptions for every major rapid on the Upper Gauley and Lower Gauley trips on the Gauley River in West Virginia.

The Upper Gauley Guide

Check out a comprehensive guide to the Upper Gauley River's 30 named whitewater rapids.


The Lower Gauley Guide

Explore the 20 named rapids on the remote and scenic the Lower Gauley River.


About The Gauley River

Learn more about the Gauley River National Recreation Area and the incredible rafting opportunities it provides.

Coming Soon