The first one is called Insignificant.
One of the cool things about whitewater is the rapid names. There are some famous ones: Lava. Greasy Pliers. Disaster Falls. And there’s a great argument to be made for including Insignificant in there.
The story goes that the first group of kayakers to go down the river, which would have included John Sweet of Sweet’s Falls fame, had done a little scouting from the canyon rim. They’d checked out the topo maps of the area. They did their best to get an idea of how much gradient they would see once they actually did the thing.
This was in 1968.
They had picked out some of the obvious biggies, like Pillow Rock and Iron Ring. But the rapid now called Insignificant is pretty hard to get to. It can’t be seen from the rim. It’s remote.
The group started down into the beast, and things just got bigger. And bigger. And bigger. No one had a clean line through. They were getting hammered right and left. Finally, when they got to the bottom, one of the boaters paddled over to John and asked, wide eyed and white knuckled, “Are they going to get bigger than that?”
And Sweet replied, “I’m not sure, but I think compared to what’s downstream, that’s going to be pretty insignificant.”
Where you go in insignificant depends on who you ask. Meaning, there are all kinds of different routes. It’s choose-your-own-adventure.
But what’s really cool about Insig is the fact that it shows you so much of what the Gauley river has to offer. What you see in insignificant, you’ll keep seeing again, on down the river, over and over.
First, there’s a pool. Anytime you see a big, flat pool of water that bends around and goes out of site on the Gauley, you’re about to run a Class V rapid.
Next, the entrance is tight and technical. All of the big rapids on the river, with the exception of Sweet’s Falls, is tough to get into. You have to negotiate through rocks and shallow water, and you better make sure you get that part right.
Then, it gets huge. Fast. The waves and holes in Insignificant rapid are, shall we say, gi-normous, and will swamp the entire boat with water several times. On other rivers, those are generally the things rafters are trying to get away from in really big rapids. Not on the Gauley. That’s exactly where you want to go.
One thing that everyone agrees on is that you have to avoid the pourover. It’s a feature so big, it doesn’t have a name, like Fred’s Pourover or the Pourover Of Doom. It’s just known as “The Pourover In Insignificant”, and you better go around it.
Left or right, it really doesn’t matter, and each guide has a preference. But over the top is a no-go. If you paddle there, get ready for an out-of-boat experience.
Which, hey, you should be ready for anyway! You’re on the Upper Gauley!
The thing about descriptions of rapids is that they never really do them justice. Running insignificant on a beautiful fall day, family and friends in the boat, huge waves all around you …
There’s nothing like it in the world. And that’s the real secret of the Gauley River.