The next seven weekends will be the most important of the year to those who rely on West Virginia’s whitewater for their livelihood. The Gauley River Rafting season is underway in the Mountain State.
A controlled release of Summersville Lake into the Gauley River Canyon creates world class rapids that draw visitors from around the world.
"It’s the best whitewater that exists anywhere in the United States," said Dave Arnold of Class VI River Runners. "For the next seven weeks, the Gauley River will be running around 2,800 CFS. We fully expect to have all seven weeks at full flow."
The dry conditions that have beset the state over the summer had left the Gauley season conditions a bit in doubt. The season length relies solely on the amount of water in the lake since a controlled release for the winter drawdown is timed to occur on the fall rafting weekends.
"Summersville Lake is really important that that stays full. They (Army Corps of Engineers) did a good job and we’re going to have a great season," Arnold said.
Arnold estimates his company alone will take 7,000 guests down the river in the coming weeks. It’s estimated a total of 45,000 people will shoot the Gauley Rapids and when combined with the numbers of rafters on the nearby New River, more than 200,000 will enjoy West Virginia whitewater in the coming days. The season always represents a boom to the local and state economy.
"This week, there will be somewhere around 200 people showing up to work in the whitewater industry from all around the country and all over the world," Arnold said.
The Gauley Season’s roots date back to the mid 70’s when professional river outfitters teamed with the Army Corps of Engineers to create the controlled release and in effect the season. The season will end on a high note with the last day of the season coming one day after the state’s biggest single-day event, Bridge Day at the New River Gorge Bridge.