How to Run the Gauley in a Rubber Ducky

If you’re thinking about heading to West Virginia and going white water rafting on the Gauley River this summer, you may be wondering:

“What kind of boat will I be riding?”

Basically, you have three possibilities which are determined by the water flows that day. One possibility is that you’ll ride a big raft, which is the most stable option, but kind of low on the maneuverability scale. Another possibility is the small raft, which is a rush because, hey, if you’re in a boat half the size, the whitewater is twice as big, right?

Possibility 3:  White water ducky.

Wait … a Ducky?

That’s right. Ducky. It’s a nickname for the single-person inflatable kayak that we take on Gauley white water when the water goes down in the summer.

Duckies are quite possibly the coolest thing to happen to rafting since the self-bailing boat (which is a real thing, BTW–ask your guide). These are more high performance than those we take on the Upper New River, which is good because Summer Gauley is all about high performance.

Basically, you get a kayak paddle, sit down in/on a pool toy on steroids, and proceed to run steep drops, narrow channels and funky turns.

Bring Your “A” Game

But it’s not as simple as it sounds. Taking a ducky on the Gauley is one of the most challenging white water rafting trips we offer. Don’t sign up unless you’re ready to take charge of your own destiny.

When you’re rafting the Gauley with a guide, we tell you when to paddle and stop and relax and dig in and take a picture and go swimming. But on a ducky trip, it’s up to YOU.

We’re still right there with you. We’re just not in the boat with you. It makes a huge difference. No worries, though. You’ll still get the same expertise you’ve grown accustomed to at ACE. In fact, you’ll meet some of our most skilled and experienced guides on a summer Gauley River ducky trip. These folks live, eat and breathe Summer Gauley.

Trip Skinny

Anyway, you probably want to know a little bit about what you’re in for on this one. Well, think “rocks.” Lots and lots of rocks. Because when the water goes down, the rocks come out. And that’s when the water starts to sluice and swirl, dip and dive … just incredible.

Beautiful, too. Any guide who has been on the Gauley when the water is right for a ducky trip will tell you that there’s something amazing about the river when you’re deep down in it with boulders towering all around you.

After each rapid you’ll spend time catching your breath or giggling or talking about how cool that last run was. But there’s also plenty of time to take pictures in between the rapids, so bring a (waterproof) camera.

Are the rapids steep? Yup. Can you fall out of your ducky? You bet. Is it one of the best West Virginia white water rafting trips you’ll ever take? Quite possibly.

So, ever been in a ducky? Tell us about it in the comments.

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  • Cbc123

    I was recently on a ducky trip on the Lower Gauley. Upon booking my trip I was under the impression that I would be rafting the Lower Gauley which was something I was comfortable with. When arriving I was told that the water levels were low and we would be taking the inflatable kayaks. A few rafts were available to ride in along-side the duck group but when choosing this option our guide criticized my decision and told me it would not be worth going unless I was in a ducky. I decided to take his suggestion and go in a ducky. The trip was okay and our large group made it through with only one injury. The guides were very excited to be doing the Lower Gauley in ducks because i guess it is not something that they get to do a lot. What they needed to keep in mind was that while they do this everyday, visitors do not. This trip was terrifying for those of us who did not have enough rafting experience. Although the guides did inform the group on safety precautions they were not much help once you fell into the water.

    • Anonymous

      Cbc, hate to hear that your trip was anything less than stellar. You bring up some great points that we’ll make sure to pass along to our guides. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and give us your thoughts– the feedback is very much appreciated.

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