Whitewater at Gauley River National Recreation Area

rafters paddle through big whitewater
Rafters navigate through Sweets Falls

NPS photo/Dave Bieri


Thousands of whitewater enthusiasts come to the Gauley every fall season, to paddle what is considered by many to be the one of the best whitewater rivers in the country. Gauley Season begins the first weekend after Labor Day, and continues for six weekends (five 4-day weekends, and one 2-day weekend). Dropping more than 668 feet through 25 miles of rugged terrain, the Gauley River's complex stretch of whitewater features more than 100 rapids with a steep gradient, technical runs, an incredible volume of water and huge waves. Its vigorous rapids, scenic quality and inaccessibility combine to make Gauley River one of the premier whitewater runs in the world.

Whitewater rafting attracts over 60,000 adventurers to the Gauley River each year. The upper Gauley offers tremendous class III to V+ drops in steep, turbulent chutes such as Pillow Rock, Iron Ring and Sweet's Falls, and rocky routes that demand constant maneuvering such as Lost Paddle and Shipwreck. This section of the river requires experience and minimum age of 16. The lower Gauley is a 12-mile stretch, rated class III to V that feels like a watery roller coaster (minimum age 12 - 14).

River Information

Check out the Water Safety page for information on how to be safe on the river.

Check the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website for current river levels.

Whitewater Release Schedule

River Safety

Running whitewater rivers is inherently risky. Prior to putting on a river, individual trip participants must recognize and assume responsibility for the attendant dangers, which include -- but are not limited to -- possible loss of life. Before attempting any river, paddlers should satisfy themselves that every person in their group understands the inherent risks of river running, freely assumes responsibility for their own safety, and possesses the necessary skill and prior experience to reasonably ensure a safe trip.

Gauley River Flow Reduction Alert - Press Release

2023 Letter to Gauley River Boaters

American Whitewater's Gauley River Page

How to go

If you plan to go on the whitewater of the Gauley River trips can be taken on your own as a private boater or through one of the many local outfitters.

Information for private boaters

Commercial Whitewater information


Also, for a close look at the individual rapids on the Gauley River and how to navigate them, check out the extensive videos by John Petretich on YouTube at:

Kayaker on Gauley River

© John L. Dengler/Dengler Images

Last updated: August 22, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Gauley River National Recreation Area
P.O. Box 246

Glen Jean, WV 25846-0246



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