You hear epic tales and stories, but nothing compares to reality of rafting the white water of the Lower Gauley River and getting an up-close and personal experience of it. I took my own first trip down the Lower Gauley merely days ago.
Having been down the New River quite a few times, but hearing the huge talk up that the Gauley gets, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Immediately, you see the vast differences. The put-in was the first thing that stood out. When you put-in on the New River, you see flat water with a lazy river, complex kind of current. The New River is a classic pool drop river, showing off its wisdom and age as being one of the world’s oldest rivers. However, the put-in for the Gauley was swift moving with rocks jabbing out here and there. The Gauley River has a more cascading feel. This was the first aspect to let you know that this ride is a totally different experience.
Upon boarding your craft and making your way into the current, within 10 minutes you will reach your first class 4 rapid. Class 4! No warm up, or gentle class 2 to get you splashed first, you are on the Gauley so its time to wake-up and get the show rolling quickly. After all, this is was a world-class river with a legendary reputation.
The “hits” (hydraulics) you receive on the Lower Gauley do not disappoint. A class 3 or 4 rapid on the Lower Gauley can feel bigger than on the New River. With every rapid, you are reminded that the Gauley is a totally different game and it’s more than exciting. Big air, huge splashes, holes where your boat completely disappears out of view and visual over load is all a part of what you can expect.
The Lower Gauley definitely offers some of the most beautifully scenery an eastern river can give, of course you will only notice this if you can pry yourself from the intensity of the rafting experience for 5 seconds to look around! Huge cliffs, enormous boulders and the majestic beauty that make-up the gorge surround you while you are surfing, splashing and soaring through each rapid. The dynamics of the Gauley as far as how much work you have to put in as a team increases as well. Staying in rhythm is key to success. Because the Gauley is a much more technical river than the Lower New, the switch-up of commands your guide gives can change quickly. This keeps you on your toes, or paddle in the water rather, as the river is always moving and keeping you intrigued.
At the end of the day you may be a little tired, but you will feel as though you can take on the world. You can’t wait to do it again and again and perhaps even take on the even more riveting Upper Gauley. The sights, the experience, each rapid, will no doubt make you a Gauley River addict resulting in a mandatory trip to ACE Adventure Resort each fall for a Gauley excursion (or two).