West Virginia White Water Rafting Adventures

By: Andrew Cothern

April 24, 2014

Looking for excitement? Feel the rush of adventure (and water) sweeping over you as you relive those “Deliverance” moments and navigate the danger and wonders of West Virginia white water rafting.

West Virginia is known as “America’s Best Whitewater”. There are multiple rivers to choose from and the rapids range from simple class one and two, all the way up to rough and adventurous class five waves, offering something for all skill levels.

The Gauley River, which is fed by water released from the Summersville Dam (the largest lake in West Virginia) every autumn, offers Class four and five rapids. The popular runs on the New River send rafters through the heart of the 1,000-foot-deep New River Gorge and underneath one of the longest steel arch bridges in the world. The Cheat River, which has more than 30 technical rapids and offers a tougher experience, and the Tygart, which covers all skill levels, are said to the strongest rivers in the country.

West Virginia White Water Rafting | New River

Fayette Station Rapid New River © West Virgina Division of Tourism

What can you expect when white water rafting? It depends on how far you want to push yourself. The higher class the rapid, the more work you’ll be doing to get through. If you’re scared of going fast or possibly falling out of the raft, stick to class one or two. Thrill-seekers will most likely want to try a higher number rapid, but of course that means more danger is involved and safety is that much more important. Always remember to wear a helmet and life jacket whenever you go out on the water.

West Virginia White Water Rafting| Kids Rafting

Kids rafting © North American River Runners

The amount of adventure you can experience also depends on the time of year you go. Most white water rafting is consistent year-round, but weather conditions like rain or snowfall will always be a factor. Most companies will go rafting come rain or shine. Always check current conditions and call ahead to see how the river is faring.

To get you started, you’ll need a guide. West Virginia has numerous rafting companies to choose from. While many will offer you the best trip for the right price, the tip to finding a good company is to get one that has extensive knowledge of river conditions and will keep safety a top priority and warn of any possible dangers. All companies must provide helmets and life jackets and many companies will do basic training before even going out on the water. The key is to find groups that will make passengers feel safe and comfortable. A list of licensed rafting companies approved by the West Virginia Department of Commerce can be found here.

West Virginia White Water Rafting Adventures

Riding the rapids on the upper Gauley River © James McCauley/Flickr

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Have you experienced West Virginia white water rafting? Let us know in the comments section below.


Written by Andrew Cothern

Andrew Cothern

Andrew Cothern is a media professional in Richmond, Virginia. He has written for a variety of publications and websites in the area, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch,, Style Weekly,, WRIC 8News,, Virginia Business, The Richmond Scene, GayRVA, River City Rapids and many others. A certified music nut, Cothern is the founder and editor of, a music site that focuses on the local music scene in Richmond.

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