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America’s whitewater wonderland in good ol’ W.Va.

By Staff | Apr 1, 2013

Photo from the West Virginia Department of Commerce, Steve Shaluta photographer Riding the rapids on the Gauley River.

Water released from the Summersville Dam every fall provides the most intense whitewater rafting east of the Mississippi; that’s why the Gauley is called the “Beast of the East.” Ranked one of the best whitewater runs in the world, the Gauley is a combination of heart-stopping excitement and breathtaking scenery. It boasts more Class IV and V rapids than any other eastern river and offers one of the most intense experiences in commercial rafting.

The New River, possibly the second-oldest river in the world, drops 240 feet over one 14-mile stretch as it cuts its way through a 1,000-foot-deep sandstone gorge. Its Class I to V rapids make it one of the most popular runs in the country. The mild, yet rippled, Upper New is perfect for float and fishing trips, while the Middle New beefs up the excitement with Class II and III rapids. The famed Lower New runs through the heart of the gorge and underneath the longest steel arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

North of these two rough and tumble rivers, lies the boulder-strewn canyon of the Cheat. Snowmelt and spring rain give the Cheat more than 30 technical rapids in the Class III to IV range. The Tygart ranks among the mightiest rivers in the nation and, due to its remoteness, is relatively uncrowded. This 10-mile-long river boasts rapids ranging from Class I to V and is home to Wells Falls, considered the most powerful, runable drop in the Monongahela River basin.

In the Eastern Panhandle, the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers offer easy, playful rapids that are great for families, scouts and school groups. During the spring, Class I-III rapids are suited for beginner to intermediate paddlers. In summer, gentler Class I-II rapids will appeal to beginners, and trips can accommodate children as small as 30 pounds. The river route, through scenic Harpers Ferry, also provides opportunity for a fun history lesson. Don’t feel like paddling? Rent a tube and float flat water or mild whitewater sections of the Potomac. You can even pack a picnic lunch to float along with you in a cooler tube!

From the West Virginia Department of Commerce.