Just what is the best rapid on the Upper Gauley River?
Like the Lower New, there are so many good, fun rapids making this a difficult question. So many good choices, let’s see … paper, rock scissors … one potato, two potato … eeny, meany, miny, mo … nothing’s working.Let’s pick out one by analyzing the features of some rapids:
Lost Paddle Rapid is my first choice. It has it all, folks! It’s technical at the top, has huge waves — including one so big it gets its own name, the Hawaii 5-0 Wave. A monster hit! Then there’s a big hole at the third drop, and the whole fourth drop is so big it gets its own name: Tumble Home.
Lost Paddle is over a half-mile long and requires focus from the crew, and knowledge and judgment from the guide. It definitely gets the nod.
Then up for consideration, there is another rapid. Pillow Rock Rapid has a 30-foot drop spread out from start to finish, a smashing hole called The Inertia Hole, the huge water pillowing off the Pillow Rock itself, the Toilet Bowl below that can flush you away, and the Volkswagen Rock at the bottom that can flip and tip.
The goal: Ride up as high as you can on the Pillow Rock without flipping and have everyone tap the rock with as many paddles as they can when you go by. There is only about a 3-4 second window for tappage from the bow paddler to the stern paddlers as the boat flies past.
Here is one of my crews from last season! 8 out of 8 paddles (including mine) hit the rock that day! Note the feet of the second and third paddlers on the right side of the boat: They are off the floor as they leaped for the big ride and taps! Awesome ride as we nosed into the Pillowed Rock, glanced off, then everyone tapped Pillow Rock.
Our video boater commented to us as he went by going to the next rapid about how loud the tapping was — it sounded like a machine gun. They’re a great crew, who are planning to come back this year. I can hardly wait!
Then, of course, there is the gold medal winner, Sweet’s Falls. It features a 14-foot cascading waterfall with hazards on each side of it, so if the boat gets pushed to one side, several people from the boat may do their flying superman impersonations!
If the boat gets pushed to the other side of the waterfall and the boat may be caught in the surf hole named The Energizer! In addition, lurking below is the large rock named Postage Due. Getting sideways against this rock (called getting stamped) will call for a desperate “highside,” hopefully in time to prevent a flip (good luck with that, by the way, but it can be done).
And to the left of Postage Due, some have jokingly called my favorite spot (but it is not!), there is the tight little area known as The Box Canyon, where just about anything can and often does happen.
Also, the crowd on each side of the river at Sweet’s Falls is great. They will try anything to distract you! You never know what you are going to see and hear as you approach the top of the waterfall. Usually hearing the crowd cheering here is not a good thing!
It is always funny to see people who were so focused above the rapid turn into vultures below wanting to see another boat not be so lucky. In addition, the smell of grilling burgers ACE guides cook up for lunch just adds to the anticipation and excitement of the show going on.
Well there you have my favorite 3 rapids on the Upper Gauley. OK, sorry, I deceived you by choosing 3 instead of one, but it was just too hard of a choice. Maybe you can do better.
What is your favorite rapid on the Gauley?