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First hand Account of the Gauley River
There is still time to raft the Beast Oct 7, 8, 13th, 14th and 21st 2012

By Jack Moe

The Gauley River will be releasing near perfect whitewater producing flows this year and will see an estimated 100,000 people navigating her waters this fall. This year, to understand her charm, I took a trip down the renowned Upper Section, sometimes referred to as “the Beast of the East!”

Until then I had rafted a few Southern rivers but never had the opportunity to go down the Gauley. I’ve heard stories and tales about the river, but never had the time to see, first-hand, what kind of river she is.

Our trip started at 9 a.m. at the Cantrell base camp. Before leaving we watched a trip safety film then took an early morning ride to the dam at Summersville and the starting point for the Upper Gauley,

Once at the river, we met our guide and trip leader. Our trip leader, was an Air Force veteran with years of Gauley experience under his paddle. I knew I would be in good hands. Our video boater, who would produce a quality DVD of our trip, had everyone introduce themselves for the tape and I was surprised to learn that people in our group had come from all corners of the US and three young men had come all the way from Germany just to face the Gauley challenge.

As we departed, I remembered that we had been warned several times that this was a river “where things happen very quickly.” When we hit our second Class V rapid “Insignificant,” I knew right away what he meant.

Whitewater is based on a series of classes: Class I being moving water, up to Class V-plus being the most challenging. “Insignificant,” one of these Class V-plus rapids, takes you into some huge whitewater. After a few twists and turns later, we were back in calm water. But not for long.

After a few Class III’s we hit “Pillow Rock.” We followed a strong rapid, which fired the boat up one side of the huge rock. We were immediately rocketed 360 degrees back into the water. All the while, waves and water were soaking the paddlers from every direction. We maneuvered around a few more rocks, and then floated downstream.

The next big rapid was “Lost Paddle.” Once again, enormous walls of whitewater attacked the boat. We were spun, bounced off rocks and twisted and turned for more than 100 yards of whitewater. Once we looked back, it was surprising to see how far we had come in such a short time.

We proceeded to the “Iron Ring.” As we watched another boat from a different outfitter go through, we saw the guide launched into the air. Her boat flipped and she scrambled to right it and get everyone back in.

After our boat successfully traversed the “Iron Ring” we encountered the rapid that made the Gauley River famous: “Sweet’s Falls.” As we approached the rapid, a horizon appeared out of nowhere, and just as suddenly you could hear the roar as the water plummeted over a 13-foot, 60-degree drop. Our veteran guide knew the exact route to take and dropped us into the mouth of the falls—and avoided “Postage Due,” a huge rock at the end of the rapid waiting to flip or double over your boat.

After a great riverside lunch, we headed back down stream for a few swimmer’s rapids and “Jump Rock.” After launching myself off the face of a small cliff, we were ready for “Julie’s Juicer.” At “the Juicer,” the right side of the boat crested on a rock, putting us at an angle difficult to high side, if not for some hard paddling, many would have departed the boat into the rough waters.

The trip was over, and even though our arms were sore and bodies exhausted, everyone in our boat had a great time—and all were ready to do it again.

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