What You Should Know About West Virginia Whitewater: Upper Railroad Rapid

(Whitewater Rafting in West Virginia is awesome. And the more you know about it, the more fun you’re going to have. This is part 2 of bazillion-part series called, “What You Should Know About West Virginia Whitewater.” Each post will cover a different rapid on either the New River or The Gauley River. Beacuse the more you know, the more you … um … will know … about going rafting. Yes.)

Upper Railroad Rapid
Upper Railroad Rapid is the New River’s whitewater answer to a shot of esspresso.  Up your nose. Class III.

But that’s only because it’s one of the first rapids you come to.  Actually, depending on the water flow, it might actually be the first “real” rapid you come to (riffles don’t count, at least not in this blog series).

You’ll know you’re there when you see a big train trestle crossing the river (the original name of the rapid was “Upper Trestle”).  Also, it sounds like a train is coming. And sometimes, there actually is a train crossing over the river just below the rapid.  But usually, it’s just the sound of whitewater.

Lots and lots of whitewater.

What Upper Railroad Rapid Looks Like

The rapid itself doesn’t look like much.  Just a horizon line, some spray, that rumble I mentioned above.

But it’s significant for a couple of reasons.  Upper Railroad is really the entrance to the Lower New River.  It’s your first taste of what the rapids in the lower gorge can be like.

And it’s the first rapid you’ll raft on the New that’s an honest-to-goodness ledge.  It’s about a 4 foot drop down into the entrance, and at the right water levels, it’s one of the best hits on the river.

Most of the water in the river heads over to the right side of the river and piles into this big, wide drop.  When it goes over the ledge, it forms a hydraulic, which is a great thing to talk about in another series of blog posts, River Terminology And You: how to know what your guide is saying when the raft hits the fan (coming soon).

What Else Is Happening In Upper Railroad

As always, the features in a rapid change as the water levels change.  Rather than go through every permutation of Upper RR at all the various water levels, we’ll just go through some of the highlights at primo water levels.

The Hole– The hole at the bottom of the ledge. Is. Awesome. A true stopper, if you hit this hole just right, the raft is going to stand straight up.  And 100% of the time, it comes back down.  Which is nice.

The Video Boaters– Upper RR is a great stop for video boaters.  It’s the first rapid in the lower gorge, so people usually recognize it, and, um … I can’t really think of why else a video boater would stop there. Hmmmmm.

The Chicago and The Detroit– These are the other holes in the rapid.  They really only come into play when the water gets higher.  But wow.  Sometimes worth running, sometimes worth avoiding, but always worth respecting.

The Pool– The pool at the bottom has a couple of influences on the rapid itself. First, all the slow water in the pool can make some really cool waves as the fast water from the rapid hits it.  And Second, it’s a pretty nice place to (voluntarily) swim for a bit before …

… running Lower Railroad Rapid.

But we’ll get to that in another post.

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  • Edecker28

    Video boaters set safety for rafts at upper railroad!

    • Anonymous

      On the right or on the left, depending on the water level :-)

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