Latest News from Ace Adventure Resort
ACE Fact Sheet
Our designation as the largest adventure resort in North America wasn't earned arbitrarily. Since the early 1980s, we have been pioneering new ways to immerse guests in the outdoor experience, and since then we've crafted more than twenty adventure activities for widely varied audiences.
For more than three decades, ACE has been guiding whitewater rafting trips on the New and Gauley rivers, two of the most popular whitewater rafting rivers in the eastern U.S. We were established as a rafting destination and remain one of the principal outfitters licensed to guide trips in West Virginia. Through the years we've managed to craft trips fine-tuned to the needs of rafters -- from seekers of high adventure to members of safety-conscious young families.
ACE’s network of suspended lines and bridges follows the rim of the New River Gorge for more than a mile, providing guests unrivaled views of the river 800 feet below. The network consists of nine lines, two bridges, and a 55-foot viewing tower with multiple decks. It is the only zip line network located in the New River Gorge, which accounts for part of its popularity. The entire network also features side-by-side lines, so friends can race or ride at the same time. A Guinness World Record for zip-lining was set on the course in 2012.
The New River Gorge is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the eastern U.S. Thousands of climbers annually scale the miles of cliff that follow the rim of the gorge and outcrops elsewhere along Summersville Lake and here at ACE Adventure Resort. Our climbing school guides take pleasure in teaching newcomers the sport and in helping others hone their skills.
More than 15 miles of private mountain biking trails wander the woodlands within the resort boundary and connect to the New River Gorge and national park trails. Our guides provide instruction and lead guests on a variety of trips through the national parklands of the New and Gauley river regions, including spectacular waterfalls and the ruins of mining-era ghost towns. Bike rentals and equipment for private excursions are available through ACE’s on-property bike shop.
Year round, hiking is one of the more popular activities at the resort. More than 15 miles of trails wind through the ACE Resort and descend into the New River Gorge. ACE welcomes guests and registered visitors to take full advantage of its trails which feature unique birding environments, steep creeks and waterfalls, breathtaking overlooks, and the ruins of mining-era ghost towns. Guided hikes, such as our Heritage Hike, may easily be arranged through our educational programming.
Our kayaking clinics provide guests more than expert instruction for whitewater paddling enthusiasts; we’ve expanded to include all types of watercraft from touring kayaks to standup paddleboards. Our training grounds are the New and Gauley rivers as well as the still waters of Summersville Lake, the largest body of water in West Virginia.
At the heart of our resort, a five-acre lake and adventure park serves as a focal point for on-site adventures. Our visitor center, three restaurants and many events are centered around the lake. Game courts, movies and live music, a climbing tower, swimming beach and water-playground with slides, a zip line, and inflatable toys keep visitors entertained. Many vacationers will find all they need for a fun-filled week here at the adventure park.
Our resort provides guest accommodation in more than 55 cabins and lodges throughout the resort property and in the region's largest private campground, designed for both tent and RV camping. All deluxe units provide guests an outdoor hot tub, kitchen facilities, cable television, climate control and picnic areas with fire rings. The resort is currently developing a 60-unit guest lodge to host the increasing number of visitors touring the New River Gorge region.
Three restaurants on the resort serve our guests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Woody's Lakeside Smoke House, the Patio Grill, and Lost Paddle Bar all provide guests delicious food in a casual atmosphere suited to relaxation after a day in the outdoors. We also offer catering services for groups staying on-site and catered picnic lunches for adventurers on the river or in the field.
ACE has long been a leader in the development of educational and team-building programs in the New River Gorge region. The Alpine Tower, paintball complex, and disc golf and mud obstacle courses are as useful as part of our team challenge programs as they are for improvised and intramural games. Our Kids’ Camp and a calendar of races and other events keep families and groups coming back to the resort year after year.
History of ACE Adventure Resort
In 1988, the corporation purchased a 1,500-acre tract of land that extends into the New River Gorge and across the highlands to its west. Part of the land, coined “Wonderland,” includes a series of ponds, a mining-era ghost town and spectacular cliffs, waterfalls and overlooks.
President Harry S. Truman visited one of the cabins located at Wonderland -- a hunting lodge that has since become one of the most popular of the 50-plus guest cabins and vacation rentals located on the property.
Through the 1990s and 2000s, the resort expanded, outpacing the growth of the U.S. whitewater rafting industry with every paddle-stroke. Twenty-five miles of recreational trails were built. Around the resort's five-acre lake, a recreation area was established that now includes game courts, beach, climbing wall, zip line and waterslide, and inflatable water toys.
A mud obstacle course was developed, and team-building course, disc golf and paintball areas soon followed. Private climbing sites were established along the rim of the gorge. A lakeside dining lodge, outfitters’ store, and lounge and conference center were added as traffic to the facility increased.
In 2008, ACE entered into its most significant period of growth. It established the first zip line canopy tour in West Virginia, expanding it to extend a mile along the rim of the gorge. It acquired the region’s first rafting company, Wildwater Expeditions. And two years later, North American River Runners was purchased.
In 2010, representatives of The Travel Channel evaluated the resort and ranked it No. 1 in North America among the world's most extreme outdoor-adventure resorts. ACE officials, however, are quick to point out that at its core it is a family resort and provides dozens of travel packages, most include whitewater rafting and other recreational pursuits designed for families.
ACE again achieved global prominence in 2012 when it set a Guinness World Record on one of its zip lines. More than 183 participants zipped along the 203-foot cable in under an hour, outnumbering the 2010 record set by 122 participants in Germany.
In 2013, the resort helped to welcome the Boy Scouts of America, its new neighbors, to the New River Gorge. The scout organization has acquired more than 10,000 acres adjacent to the ACE Resort on which it has established a permanent home for its Jamboree. The event will be hosted every four years, and attendance is expected to reach more than 40,000 on each occasion.
Officials expect to enjoy unprecedented growth at the resort through the next decade. Plans for a 60-unit guest lodge have already been announced, and arrangements for the expansion of further outdoor-adventure facilities, including a festival site are underway. In many senses, the resort is only embarking on its first age of maturity.
History of Whitewater Rafting in West Virginia
Whitewater rafting in West Virginia started with a few paddlers on the New River in canoes. Paul Davidson and Bob Burrell started to canoe mountain rivers in 1965, and were soon introduced to closed boats and the Cheat, Yough, New and Gauley Rivers by eastern paddlers such as John Sweet (for whom the Gauley rapid Sweet's Falls is named).
The early pioneers of the now professionalized rafting industry in West Virginia were college-age kids looking for fun and thrills, and were the first to put a raft on the river.
The family most associated with early whitewater rafting in West Virginia and the eastern United States were the Dragans, led by entrepreneur Jon Dragan, along with brothers Tom and Chris, and Jon's then-girlfriend and later wife Melanie (who still works for ACE Adventure Resort). They left the Youghiogheny River in Pennsylvania for the New, which at the industry's peak would have about 20 companies working the river. Chris Dragan was 15 when they started taking friends down the river in 1968; the oldest among them was 24 at the time.
The family launched Wildwater Expeditions Unlimited, hiring guides and housing them at Thurmond. Each guide was asked to write a research paper on history local to the New River Gorge, meant to provide them stories to entertain guests on trips down the river.
The Dragans' company in 1968 was only the third of its kind in the United States. They started with a few pickup trucks and four Army surplus rafts that they used to maneuver friends down the river. At the time, the banks wouldn't give them the $4,000 needed for the equipment, so they borrowed the money from family.
In those early days, guides often had to pull over to scout the best possible route down the river. There were no landmarks charted or named rapids, and so the Dragans named the rapids according to their character, after geographical location or some memorable event. The next two decades would see an industry boom, and in 1994 upwards of 200,000 people paddled whitewater in West Virginia, pumping millions of dollars into local economies.
By 1991, a Whitewater Advisory Board composed of whitewater rafting company officials, private paddlers, private citizens and consumers, fishery officials and the National Park Service was created to deal with whitewater issues including setting the number of commercial passengers that could be allowed on West Virginia rivers to prevent overcrowding.
In 2009, ACE Adventure Resort purchased Wildwater Expeditions Unlimited and in 2010 ACE bought another legendary company that was founded in 1975 - North American River Runners. The three outfitters now operate as one family.
The following list of primary ACE contacts maintains an up-to-the-minute knowledge of resort affairs or is otherwise a proven source of accurate information in his or her respective field. Please feel free to contact them.
Chief of Staff
The Chief of Staff at ACE Adventure Resort, Dave Bassage, has more than 30 years invested in the whitewater industry and environmental stewardship. He has championed the Office of Innovation at the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection and is a past or present member of the W.Va. Rivers Coalition and the W.Va. Environmental Institute and founder and president of the Friends of the Cheat. Dave is a frequent speaker and has appeared on Good Morning America, NPR's Living on Earth and the HBO climate-change feature "Too Hot Not to Handle." He is a recipient of the Sierra Club's Cranberry Award.
Director of Communication
Beth Gill has been marketing tourism and outdoor recreation since her days at Old Dominion University, at which time she became a buyer for Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. Though a daughter of Tidewater Virginia, she swiftly yielded to the allure of the mountains and became a kayaker and climbing guide, employed through the University of Virginia. In 1996 she moved to West Virginia, where she became a raft guide and video boater. She was named special-events director at ACE in 2002 and director of marketing in 2006. Beth is the principal media contact for the resort.
Director of Climbing School
A climber for more than a quarter-century, Josh Sapio began scaling the cliffs of the New River Gorge and the Summersville Lake climbing areas as a teen. In 1993 he joined ACE and in 2000 became director of its climbing program. Josh has traveled much of the western hemisphere in pursuit of outdoor adventure. He has trekked across Nepal and through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. He has summited Mount Whitney, Mount Rainier and Cotopaxi, ascending to more than 19,000 feet above sea level. He is an AMJ certified single-pitch instructor and a PCGI certified top-rope guide.
Paintall and IT Manager
Brandon Shaw manages the paintball program at ACE, as well as its network and telecommunications systems. Originally trained as an ACE rafting guide, his proficiency and vision were quickly recognized, and within a year he was charged with the management of ACE’s information technology. Shaw grew up in New Mexico, where his love for the outdoors was established. He has also been employed as an Alaskan sled-dog guide and is a world traveler. His wanderlust has taken him through China, Tibet, India, Pakistan, Cambodia and much of Europe and North America.
Fishing Programs Manager
Tommy Canaday grew up angling the New River near Hinton, West Virginia, where his family maintained a fishing cabin. He launched his career with ACE as a whitewater rafting guide in 1990, but his aptitude for angling soon became apparent and he was entrusted with the management of the fishing program. Tommy is widely regarded for his knowledge of fishing on many eastern U.S. rivers and for his expertise in the most sought-after species in the New River, including smallmouth bass. He is also an avid fly and trout fisherman, familiar with cold water streams in West Virginia and the techniques best used to take trophies on their waters.
ACE News Archive
May 15, 2014
WVVA Backyard Vacations Series
Teaming Up with App Trophy TV
May 28, 2013
Whitewater Trips Designed for Families
May 5, 2013
Bachelor parties battle in paintball game
March 4, 2013
First whitewater trip of 2013 launches Monday
January 7, 2013
Tennis Anyone? New River Gorge Bridge celebrated
July 27, 2012
Top 10 West Virginia Getaways
June 28, 2012
Fayette resort to add snow-tubing, disc golf
June 27, 2012
10 excellent outdoor adventures for families
June 25, 2012
Better than a tent June 25, 2012
March 27, 2012
Guide Cabins Bolster Rafting Experience March 27, 2012
March 5, 2012
W.Va. whitewater outfitter to add snow-tubing park
December 14, 2011
New River resort expands to accommodate Boy Scout project
River Wild: "West Virginia's New River Gorge is chock-full of adventure..." Download River Wild PDF
July 19, 2010:
Zip Line Canopy Tour Sees 10,000th Guest At ACE Adventure Resort http://www.prweb.com/releases/zip_line_canopy_tour/new_river_gorge/prweb4277824.htm
April 26, 2010:
ACE Raft Guide Numbers and Training Increase http://www.prweb.com/releases/west-virginia/whitewater-rafting/prweb3821124.htm
April 19, 2010:
ACE To See 10,000th Zip Line Canopy Tour Visitor This Summer http://www.prweb.com/releases/westvirginia/ziplinecanopytour/prweb3820164.htm
April 5, 2010:
ACE Adventure Resort To Hold 2nd Annual July 4 Blob Big Air Contest http://www.prweb.com/releases/FourthOfJuly/vacationcontest/prweb3813804.htm
March 31, 2010:
ACE Adventure Resort Vacation Bookings See Massive Surge Following Heavy Winter http://www.prweb.com/releases/westvirginia/vacationresort/prweb3813454.htm
January 18, 2010:
2009 Numbers Keep ACE Adventure Resort On Top Of Industry http://www.prweb.com/releases/ACE_Adventure_Resort/white_water_rafting/prweb3459384.htm
October 6, 2009:
U.S. Soldiers To Test Determination In West Virginia Adventure Race http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/10/prweb2997624.htm
April 1, 2009:
Outfitter To Give Away 30 Years Of Free Rafting http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/04/prweb2286584.htm
March 12, 2009:
Rafting Outfitter Blogs To Bring Fans Outdoors http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/03/prweb2226104.htm
August 19, 2008:
Winners Take All As Surfin' Sunday Returns http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/08/prweb1224584.htm
July 22, 2008:
ATV Tours Join ACE Adventure Resort Line-Up http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/07/prweb1131544.htm
April 4, 2008:
West Virginia Adventure Resort Announces 2008 Calendar Of Races http://www.prweb.com/releases/West_Virginia/Adventure_Resort/prweb834264.htm
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The Washington Post (Sept. 24, 2010) — Escapes: Ace Adventure Resort in W.Va. offers camping, rafting and more