Secrets Of The Gauley River: Do YOU Know What A Class V Rapid Looks Like?


The Gauley River in West Virginia is home to some big, burly whitewater rafting. That means Class V rapids.

But what’s a Class V, exactly? And what are the Class V rapids like on the Gauley? Never fear, ACE blog readers. This post is here to help.

Class V whitewater is always defined using some combination of the following words and terms:

  • Turbulent
  • Difficult to reach
  • Unavoidable obstacles
  • Massive waves
  • Violent holes
  • Steep
  • Congested
  • Expert

What they leave out are these ones:

  • Fun
  • Thrilling
  • Action-packed
  • Adventurous
  • Adrenaline-fueled
  • Exciting
  • Fun (needs to be said twice)

Seriously, why just stick with the scary stuff? Class V rafting is amazing!

How We Do It

Well, simply put, we need your help. Whitewater rafting on the Gauley is a team thing. You’re not just floating along for the ride out there. You’ve got to participate.

It helps to have good guides. We have some of the best. And funniest.

Basically, the current takes the raft downstream, while you and your crew listen for the guide to give you paddle commands. You will, of course, carry out those commands flawlessly, making short work of every Class V rapid that comes your way.

In theory.

There are six Class V rapids on the Upper Gauley (the Big 6), and they all live up to their reputations. Insignificant is long and powerful. Pillow Rock is a game of skill. Lost Paddle is all about huge waves and strong currents. Shipwreck Rock is an unforgettable squeeze. Iron Ring is knowing if you feel lucky. And Sweet’s Falls is the biggest whitewater spectacle you’ll ever be a part of.

We do it all the time, and it’s still incredible, each and every run. Class V rapids on the Gauley are something special.

Are You Right For Class V Rapids On The Upper Gauley?

Well, the answer is, “Probably.” There are certain requirements and recommendations you need to consider, though.

First, 15 years old and up. Seriously. DO NOT “fib a little” about your kid’s age to go on the Upper Gauley. We’ve got years of experience doing this, and, trust us: Class V is more fun the older you get. Too young is too young.

You should be in moderate physical shape. Do you have to run triathlons? No. Can you eat 50 million donuts and still go? No. If you only get off the couch once a year, make sure it isn’t to go rafting on Class V Gauley whitewater.

Probably the most important thing is for you to like doing exciting stuff. If you like thrill rides, or getting outside, or any mix of the two, you’ll probably love the Upper Gauley. But peer pressure and big whitewater are a bad combo; there are better ways to learn to love whitewater than to start with the hard stuff.

Hey, What About The Lower Gauley?

The best test if you’re a newbie? Start with the Lower Gauley. You’ll see a ton of big rapids there. And there are even a few that get into the Class V arena (there’s always a big debate on what rapids are Class V and what rapids aren’t.)

So what do you think? Do you have any Class V whitewater questions? Write them in the comments. Or write us a note about your last Gauley trip.

Thanks again for reading the ACE Blog, everyone.

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