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Despite pandemic, one outfitter has strong hope for 2020 Gauley Season

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Like most industries in West Virginia, 2020 has been a trying year. The rafting industry has been forced to make changes and adapt like all others, but despite the setbacks one operator believes they are poised for a solid Gauley River rafting season.

“It wont’ be as good at 2019 and 18, but it will be close. America is definitely on the move and people want to get out,” said Dave Arnold, with Adventures on the Gorge.

The annual Gauley season begins Friday and runs each weekend into mid-October.  Rafting was one of the industries which shutdown in March, just as the summer season was getting underway when the pandemic first struck. Amid a series of strict guidelines, the outfitters opened up again and began to accommodate guests who were willing to return or honor a reservation. According to Arnold, those guidelines and restrictions have been workable all summer.

“So far, we’ve had not Covid among our staff or among our guests. It’s probably because w’ere outside. Our facility is very outside, we have cabins and not a hotel. Assembly time in big groups doesn’t happen that much,” he explained.

Guests are required to wear masks when the enter buildings on the property like the store or office. They’re also required to mask up and sit socially distant on the shuttle buses. State guidelines prohibit the mixing of groups on rafting trips. River runs are only made with the people who came in your party.

“It appears things have worked well with whitewater, people are confident and they are coming,” Arnold said.

The season runs for five weekends and would normally end on Bridge Day in Fayette County. The annual event, the largest gathering in West Virginia, has been cancelled for 2020. Arnold said while that won’t impact Gauley Season, it’s still a blow which couldn’t be avoided.

“We got a lot of reservations from Bridge Day. We won’t have that and we’ll miss it and it will be a financial hit to us. But, it’s smart that they closed that down. That was a lot of people inches from each otter and that was not good social distancing,” he said.

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