Spring Whitewater Rafting Trips 101

Why go whitewater rafting in the spring?  Isn’t it cold?  Especially in the mountains of West Virginia?

Um, kind of.

Beyond the weather (which is usually pretty good, actually) there are a ton of reasons to go rafting in the spring.  Mostly, because the rapids are huge. Promise.

Let’s dig in a little and get down to the awesome of this whole big-water spring rafting thing, shall we?

What Happens In Spring

Spring is our rainy season.  And rain means water.  You knew that.

But a lot of people don’t.  Seriously.  They think (and who can blame them, really?) that our rivers depend on snow runoff.  Not true, mostly.  Meaning, there’s a little snow in the mountains this far south, here and there, but nothing great enough to be called a “snowpack.”

It’s rain that does the job.  The same rains that help turn everything green and flowery make the rivers go boom.

We’re talking March to early June for most years.

 

What Happens In The River

So, you’ve got these features in the river called “banks.”  Normal people would call them “sides,” but you know whitewater folks.  Gotta do everything different.

The sides of the river keep all the water in (a river with no sides is a tilted lake, which may or may not exist in real life).  If you fill the river up just past where it normally goes in the sides, well, that’s when, in technical terms, it’s really, really fun to go rafting.

It’s called big water, and on the New and the Gauley, there’s a lot of it.

When the water rises, the waves get bigger.  It’s that simple.  Our biggest rafts are almost 17 feet long, and the look like little pool toys out in some of this stuff.  Rafting in big water is unlike any other rafting you’ll ever do.

Towering waves.  Thundering holes.  Powerful eddies.  Smiling guides.  Laughing guests.  Unicorns.

That’s what high water rafting trips in the spring are made of.

Think we’re right?  Have you ever done any high water rafting?  Tell us about it in the comments.

 

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  • Bill

    Unicorns? Really? Sweet. Sign me up.

  • Rick1

    I don’t know about Unicorns… but typical April, May flows, say above 18,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) or above 10 feet on the Fayette Station Gauge the whitewater experience on the New River is intense. For those fall Gauley folks who run the river at only 2,800 cfs – this is a totally different kind of experience! If you have never tried the New at these flows you are really missing out on some of the most “legendary rapids”. There are wave trains (a series of waves one after the other in a row) that make a 16-foot raft stand up on end – you are literally looking up in the sky as you climb the wave – you burst though the top in a spray of white water and then you have that wired stomach wrenching drop off the backside of the wave (like a roller coaster at an amusement park, only more intense). Now multiply 9 or 10 times in a row and you just experienced Surprise rapid at 9-feet! Have have to experience it yourself to truly understand the adrenaline rush… Spring rafting is one of my favorite times to raft.

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