The whitewater rafting on the Lower Gauley River is just as big as on the Upper (almost), it’s just not quite as technical.
It has to do with the international whitewater scale of difficulty. A class III rapid can be huge, but it won’t be as difficult as a class V.
Lucky for us, the Lower Gauley is full of big rapids. Here are 5 that you might not know about …
Backender: This is the rapid that starts the big turn around Koontz Bend. You’ve come through a lot of little riffles (compared to everything else), so you’re ready for something big. Backender doesn’t disappoint. You’re going to start out on the far right side, and do a little s-turn just as things start to get big. Get ready, because you’re going to get dumped right into the big hole at the bottom.Bonus: It’s just the start of a big four rapid stretch.
Diagonal Ledges: One night, a kayaker went to sleep and dreamed of the perfect surf wave. When they awoke, there was Diagonal Ledges.That story was completely made up, but the wave is real. Just run right down the throat, and hit the fluffy white stuff in the middle.Bonus: There’s almost always a kayaker surfing the wave, and you can play chicken with them. HA! Kidding!
Heaven Help Us: The name pretty much says it all. Really long, really demanding, and really, really fun, Heaven Help Us delivers on all whitewater rafting fronts.It’s a dogleg left that opens up into a huge wavetrain that runs you into The Gates (of heaven if you do it right, of somewhere else if you’re off). There’s a big boulder on your left and a big pourover hole on your right. Go between them.Bonus: During spring high water season, Heaven Help Us becomes the biggest runnable (?) rapid on the Gauley.
Stairsteps: This is a two-parter. There’s an upper and lower, both big long fun wave trains. And if you know rafting, you know that wave trains are where it’s at.There’s not too much to watch out for, except for an enormous, pulsating brain of a pourover in the center of the upper part. Watch out for it, because it comes up quick. Otherwise, enjoy the ride!Bonus: The hit in the middle of Lower Stairstep is so good, it’s one of only two class III rapids in West Virginia that our video boaters will film.
Rattlesnake: Just when you think you’re done with the big stuff for a while, there’s another little something to come up and bite you. HA! See what happened there? Because rattlers bite? Um … okay, sorry.Rattlesnake looks small. And actually, it is kind of small. Except for the wave at the end. That one’s big. Especially if it breaks on your raft. It’s tough to time it that way, because it kind of pulses, but if you get it just right, it feels that way.Bonus: Below Rattlesnake, there a nice little hole that can soak the entire boat if you hit it sideways, with just a little luck.