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Pillow Rock, Class V Rapids, Gauley River, (c) Thomas R. FletcherSummersville Weekend

By

Thomas 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 September 13.

       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 andLoading the canon, Battle of Carnifax Ferry (c) Thomas R. Fletcher times.

            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 Mississippi.

            ABattle of Carnifax Ferry (c) Thomas R. Fletcherlthough 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. 

            "I have Gauley posters on my wall," a white-water guide in Vermont informed me.

            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.

            Guiding through Pillow Rock Rapids, Gauley River (c) Thomas R. FletcherLocated 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.

 

 

Summersville Convention and Visitors Bureau

1 Old Wilderness Rd
Summersville, WV 26651-1732
Phone: 304-872-3722

Web: http://www.summersvillecvb.com/ 

West Virginia Tourism

2101 Washington St. E.

Charleston, WV 25305-0312

Phone: 800-CALL-WVA

Web: www.westvirginia.com 

Class VI/Mountain River

Phone: (800) 252-7784

Website: http://www.class-vi.com/whitewaterrafting.cfm 

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Pillow Rock, Class V Rapids, Gauley River, (c) Thomas R. Fletcher            Pillow Rock, Class V Rapids, Gauley River, (c) Thomas R. Fletcher            Pillow Rock, Class V Rapids, Gauley River, (c) Thomas R. Fletcher

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