Top 5 Sleeper Rapids on the Gauley

When people talk about rafting the Gauley, they speak in reverent tones of rapids such as Insignificant and Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle and Iron Ring, Sweet’s Falls and Wood’s Ferry, Heaven Help You and Pure Screaming Hell. It’s these rapids that give the Gauley its street cred.

But there are other rapids on the Upper and Lower stretches that lie in wait in the shadows of their more well-known elders. These are the ones that don’t look so tough until you meet them up close.

And they have something to prove.

1. Pick-a-slot

Not much to this one unless you’re not paying attention. The best part of Pick-a-slot is that things tend to happen slowly so you get to enjoy every moment of your raft parking on one of the many rocks waiting just below the water. Make sure you wave as the other rafts pass you by.

2. Iron Curtain

Iron Curtain, so named for the iron deposits staining the cliff walls on river right, lurks between Insignificant and Pillow Rock. The river funnels into one point marked by a ginormous, frothy haystack wave. If you’re sleeping, the wave can make short work of your boat, shoving it into the eddy on river left or flipping the whole enchilada.

3. The Ledge

This sleeper rapid awaits just downstream of Iron Ring. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a successful Iron Ring run, but keep your ears open for your guide. Too far left or too far right and things tend to get interesting.

4. Gillespie’s Hole

You’ll encounter Gillespie’s Hole just before jump rock on river right. As with any good sleeper, it seems straight forward enough as you cross the river from left to right. Linger in the middle just a hair too long and – bam – you’re surfing. A. Lot.

5. Backender

We’ll go ahead and call Backender a sleeper if for no other reason than it is the first big rapid you come to after a series of really fun smaller rapids. This is where it’s time buckle down and really focus because just downstream is Koontz Flume and if you’re not in the right frame of mind, Five-Boat Hole will be there for you.

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