An Open Letter to Gauley River Boaters
The rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreational Area welcome you to the 2023 boating season. National Park Service (NPS) employees have been working, and continuing to work, on preparing the put-ins and take-outs, roads, and other public use areas for the upcoming Gauley River National Recreational Area (NRA) visitation. Gauley season starts September 8 this year and ends October 22.
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 6 am. Pets are required to be restrained or on leash, 6 feet or less. Camping outside of designated sites is prohibited, including sleeping inside vehicles in the parking lot. Rangers will be conducting 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 Summersville Dam has not changed. Boaters can expect congestion and a full parking lot in the morning, particularly on the weekends. If necessary, rangers may have to temporarily stop incoming traffic on the access road to the dam if the parking lot is full. 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 access road to the dam on the busy weekends, particularly Gauley Fest weekend (September 15-18), until parking spaces become available. There is a short term, unloading area, next to the boat blower by the bathrooms. This area is for 10-to15-minute parking. Please do not place boats in the parking area. Once your boat is blown, place it in the grass, out of the way of traffic. Please do not place boats in parking spaces in an attempt to save a spot for others in your party. This only slows the process of trying to get vehicles parked that might be waiting for a spot.
At Mason’s Branch, parking is limited and fills to capacity nearly every day of Gauley Season. 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 Gauley Season for private boater parking when the available NPS parking lot is full. The walking trail from the river to the field has been checked and cleared of fallen trees and obstructions for those walking or carrying boats uphill to their vehicle parked in the field. As in the past, rangers plan to open Mason’s Branch access road for unrestricted travel sometime in the afternoon each day, approximately 1:00 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 busy weekends; parking is available but not unlimited. Unattended vehicles parked at the upstream end of the river access and vehicles obstructing traffic will be towed.
The takeout at upper Swiss is the only public takeout on the lower Gauley within the NRA. Parking is available to boaters in the field. The entire upper Swiss takeout is closed to camping. Please be careful and watch your speed on the roads leading to the put ins and takeouts, especially Panther Mountain Road. There are numerous blind curves and narrow areas with two-way traffic. These roads are used by commercial busses as well, which take up a lot of room. Allow yourself time to get to your destination safely, please do not rush. Be considerate of the people that live on these roads as well.
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 arrange for a shuttle, contact Hills to Hills Tour and Shuttle at https://www.hillstohills.com/ or call 304-640-8122. This shuttle service is the only NPS approved commercial service in the park. Boaters should be aware of other shuttle services charging a fee, without a permit in place, without insurance, and otherwise operating illegally in violation of park regulations.
The NPS provides regular, almost daily river patrols on scheduled releases with an emphasis on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Search and Rescue (SAR). The NPS river 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, park 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, and local landowners 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 has occurred several times in the last few years. To help prevent boaters from being surprised by the sudden and unexpected drop in water levels, NPS rangers continue to implement a sign and signal flag program to provide visual aids along the river in the event on 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 Mason’s Branch on river right, is private property with no vehicle or pedestrian access allowed. Unauthorized vehicles and pedestrians are not permitted, and trespassers are subject to contact with local law enforcement that could lead to fines and/or arrest. Land acquisition continues within the NRA. Private land purchased by the 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 website at www.nps.gov/gari as well as continue to communicate with private boaters through partnering organizations such as American Whitewater. For this season as in the past, we apricate the boating public cooperation that helps to make the Gauley boating season safe, exciting, and memorable for everyone.
Charles D. Sellars
Superintendent New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
Gauley River National Recreational Area
Bluestone National Scenic River