2022 Letter to Gauley River Boaters

Two kayakers approach big whitewater

August 18, 2022

An Open Letter to Gauley River Boaters

Dear Boaters,

The rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area welcome you to the 2022 boating season. National Park Service (NPS) employees have been working, and are continuing to work, on preparing the put-ins and take-outs, roads, and other public use spots for upcoming Gauley River National Recreation Area (NRA) visitation. Gauley season begins September 9 this year and ends October 16.

The Gauley Tailwaters campground will be open this year and offers 18 tent or RV campsites free of charge. There is a limit of 8 people, 2 tents, and 2 vehicles per campsite. Quiet hours are from 10 pm to 6am. Pets are required to be restrained or on leashes 6 ft or less. Camping outside of designated sites is prohibited including sleeping inside vehicles in the parking lot. Rangers will be providing regular patrols of the campground to register campers and enforce regulations.

The put-ins and take-outs will operate as in the past with no change.

Parking and traffic flow at the Tailwaters has not changed. Boaters can expect congestion and a full parking lot in the mornings particularly on weekends. If necessary, rangers may have to temporarily stop incoming traffic on the TaiIwaters access road if the parking lot below fills up. These stoppages are normally short in duration and last only long enough for parking spaces to open up. Boaters should expect that rangers will have to provide traffic control and stop incoming traffic on the Tailwaters access road the Saturday and Sunday of Gauley Fest weekend, September 17 and 18, until parking spaces below become available.

At Masons Branch, parking is limited and fills to capacity nearly every boating day. To prevent congestion, the access road will be closed when the parking lot fills up. We greatly appreciate American Whitewater for leasing the Legg field above Mason's Branch for boater parking. The field will be available throughout the Gauley season for private boater parking when the available NPS parking below fills up. The walking trail from the river to the field has been checked and is clear of fallen trees and obstructions for those walking or carrying boats uphill to their car parked in the field. As in the past, the rangers plan to open Mason's Branch access road for unrestricted travel sometime in the afternoon each day, around 1 pm, or whenever the bulk of commercial bus traffic is through for the day.

Parking at Wood's Ferry will be managed like it has in the past with no changes. Boaters are asked to park close together in an organized fashion to take advantage of all the available space and to create parking opportunities for others. Wood's Ferry fills to capacity on some weekends. Parking is available but not unlimited. The upstream end of Wood's Ferry is used for dropping off and picking up boats and gear and not for parking during the day. Unattended vehicles parked at the upstream end will betowed. Unattended vehicles obstructing traffic will be towed.

The take-out at upper Swiss is the only lower Gauley public take-out within the recreation area. Parking is available to boaters in the field. The parcel, both the field and boat launch are closed to camping.

A commercial shuttle service operating under a permit from the NPS will again be available this Gauley season for your shuttling needs on both the New and Gauley Rivers. To check it out or arrange for a shuttle, contact Hills to Hills Tours and Shuttle at https://www.hillstohills.com/ or call 304-640-8122. This shuttle service is the only one with NPS approval to operate commercially within the park. Boaters should beware of other shuttle services charging fees, without a permit in place, without insurance, and otherwise operating illegally in violation of park regulations.

The NPS provides regular, almost daily, river patrols during the scheduled releases with an emphasis on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and rescue. The NPS river ranger patrol boat carries an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) in addition to other medical supplies. They are available to provide both routine and emergency boater services as they arise. Additionally, river patrol rangers continue to work with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the WV Division of Natural Resources, railroad partners, aeromedical helicopter services, local ambulance providers, local fire departments, commercial rafting companies, landowners, and others to pre-plan and prepare for boater safety.

Park Rangers and local emergency personnel may request a reduction of the scheduled water release from Summersville Dam in the event of an emergency. Although rare, this occurred twice in 2021. To help prevent boaters from being surprised by the sudden and unexpected drop in water level, NPS rangers continue to implement a sign and signal flag program to provide visual aids along the river in the event of an emergency. The press release will be posted on the American Whitewater and Gauley River NRA website.

The Gauley River NRA has large parcels of privately-owned land within its boundaries. Boaters and other NRA visitors are reminded to be aware of, and respect, the rights of private landowners. The gated road to Sweet's Falls upstream of Masons Branch on river right is private property with no vehicle or pedestrian access. Unauthorized vehicles and pedestrians are not permitted. Trespassers are subject to arrest, fines, and contact with local law enforcement. Land acquisition continues within the NRA. Private land purchased by the NPS and brought into the public domain protects the view shed from the river; allows the NPS to build and maintain campgrounds, parking lots, access roads, and boat launches; and protects the Gauley's natural and pristine characteristics.

As our Gauley season planning efforts progress, we will post information on our web page at www.nps.gov/gari as well as continuing to communicate with private boaters through partnering organizations such as American Whitewater. For this season as in the past, we appreciate the boating public cooperation that helps to make the Gauley boating season safe, exciting, and memorable for everyone.


Jay Newman, Acting Superintendent
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
Gauley River National Recreation Area
Bluestone National Scenic River

Last updated: August 19, 2022

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Mailing Address:

Gauley River National Recreation Area
P.O. Box 246

Glen Jean, WV 25846-0246



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