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R. & Deborah A. Fletcher
Traditionally, Labor Day marks the end of summertime activities.
That isnít the case with Summersville, in the heart of Central West
Virginia. Plans are being made for
the activity-filled week following Labor Day.
The annual Potato Festival is being held September 10-12.
The reenactment of the Civil War Battle of Carnifax Ferry is being staged
Events at the Potato Festival include a beauty pageant; a potato
cook-off; a potato judging and auction; a parade; a classic car show; arts &
crafts; and a 5-K run. Call the
Summersville Convention and Visitors Bureau for a complete listing of events and
Nearby, the Carnifax Ferry State Park will have Civil War camps set up by
re-enactors. The camps will be open
for public viewing at 9:00 AM on Saturday September 12. Throughout the day there
will be living history events taking place.
Period crafts, such as wool dyeing, will be demonstrated.
On Sunday morning, the camps will once again be open for public viewing
at 9:00 AM, and there will be an outdoor church service conducted by the
re-enactors. Sunday afternoon,
usually around 2:00 PM, the reenactment of the Battle of Carnifax Ferry takes
place. Civil War buffs and people of
all ages will find the booming volleys of canon fire, drifting smoke, and
uniformed soldiers quite appealing. This
event seems to grow each year, drawing participants from as far away as
Although these events draw quite a number of people to the area, there is
another attraction. This attraction
brings people from all across the United States and several foreign countries.
It is the opening of the Gauley season.
The name strikes fear into hearts of the white-water timid.
I know. Been there, felt the
fear and trepidation. The name is
spoken in hushed, reverential tones by experienced enthusiasts.
All serious white-water adventurers have either done or long to do this
river. Without controversy, The
Gauley is among the most thrilling white-water rivers in the United States.
have Gauley posters on my wall," a white-water guide in Vermont informed
Although he has yet to do the Gauley, he looks at his poster and
dreams--or so he says. Such is the
enthusiasm generated by this awesome river.
Every year, for six consecutive weekends in September and October, during
the annual draw-down of the Summersville Dam, people flock to the area to
experience the thrill of a lifetime. During
the draw-down the water is released at a constant rate of 2,800 cubic feet per
second. No wonder Outside magazine
referred to it as "the hillbilly autobahn."
The Gauley is a pounding, swirling, tumbling, fast and furious river.
Located in the heart of mountainous West Virginia, the Gauley flows
through some of the most remote and gorgeous scenery in the eastern United
States. It is channeled through a
steep canyon that is an average of 500 feet deep.
Recommended only for commercial rafting trips and expert kayakers, the
river crashes over and around boulders the size of homes.
Riding the Gauley is as pure an adrenaline rush as one could hope for--or
want. Just listen to the names of
some of the rapids: "Heaven Help You,"
"Upper and Lower Mash," and "Pure Screaming Hell,"
with "Hell Hole" in the middle of this Class V beauty.
The Upper Gauley is as radical as a river gets.
The good thing about the Gauley in fall is that it is a controlled
release and the level is consistent. In
spring the release is determined by the amount of water flowing into the dam and
the release rate may go as high as 12,000 cubic feet per second.
I know a few radical (possibly psycho?) kayakers that have ridden it at
those ridiculous rates. There is
nothing to stop anyone from throwing a kayak in the water and riding the river
at any time.
Gauley season starts the Friday after Labor Day, September 11 this year.
Release days are Friday through Monday for five weekends, and then
Saturday and Sunday the last weekend. Many
people finish a day on the river and immediately book a trip for the next year,
reserving a spot with the rafting companies a year in advance.
Saturdays and Sundays book up fairly quickly.
Fridays and Mondays find fewer people on the river.
Don't necessarily think you will be doing the Upper Gauley your first
time out. Rafting companies require
a minimum age of 15 or 16, depending upon the company.
All recommend that rafters have white-water experience on either the New
or Lower Gauley. Reading some
brochures, it sounds like a requirement, but there is no way to fully enforce
such a rule. The Gauley is a mighty
river; it wouldn't make sense to attempt it with no white-water experience.
The Lower Gauley is quite thrilling, with rapids from Class III through Class V, with some easy flat-water in between. The Upper Gauley is Class III to Class V, with back-to-back rapids and almost no flat water breaks. The Upper Gauley is just one long, fast adrenaline rush. Can you handle it?
For a complete listing of rafting companies in the state, phone 1-800-CALL WVA, or check out the website at: www.westvirginia.com.