Gauley Season: Missing The Event Of The Year

Until 2010, I’ve only missed the grand opening of the Gauley River for the fall whitewater rafting season once in the last 22 years. Once.


Ah, that first Gauley River trip …

I will never forget the jolt of electricity as the bus rounded the curve to the top of the Summersville Dam. It’s one of the things that has kept me coming back year after year.

A glance out the left side of the bus during the pre-trip orientation confirmed that the hype was indeed warranted. There it was; a white cloud above, water pulsating at more than 2,500 cubic feet per second (cfs). Long lines of colorful rafts waiting to put in. Seasoned guides sharing impromptu reunions in the parking lot.

It was my first Gauley Season (circa 1988); first day, first trip. The photos and descriptions don’t do justice to the powerful image.

The stories are true from back then. First, you really could flip a raft at the put-in. And second, there was a constant rainbow above the tubes where the water discharged to form the whitewater that creates Gauley Season.

The tubes are gone, at least as far as us rafters are concerned, but the electricity is still potent. Thousands line the paved walkway down to the put in with a gentle bubble from down below silently elevating the water level. The rapids below have not changed and still provide some of the world’s best whitewater. The ACE guides train and anticipate for these days all year long. For 22 days, this 23-mile stretch of river brings smiles to thousands of rafters. Yes, it’s the best ticket in town for a whitewater adventure.

(BTW, have you bought yours yet?)

I’m going to miss the first weekend this year. I’ll be winging my way to Melbourne, Australia on a work assignment. I can promise that at 7AM eastern standard time on Friday (it will be 9PM in Australia and I’ll have just landed) I’ll think of that first trip as it departs ACE and rounds that bend at the Dam.

Have a great trip, everyone. I’ll be back for weekend #2!

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