Come fall in West Virginia—and on rivers around the world—talk turns to the legendary Gauley River. This season, however, there’s even more than world-class whitewater to get paddles packing — there’s more water and more days to enjoy it.
In an innovative and unprecedented decision, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced that 2011’s Gauley Season schedule (always subject to change) will feature 29 days instead of the normal 22. In addition, most of the release days later in the fall will offer 3,200 CFS versus the normal 2,800 CFS.
“In my 35 years of whitewater on the Gauley River, this will be a Gauley Season highlight,” says Dave Arnold, founding director of Adventures on the Gorge. “These are the best drawdowns I’ve seen, except for the special release that we had for the World Rafting Championship in 2001.” The extra days were created by high water levels in Summersville Lake above the dam, plus a need to inspect the dam’s huge outlet tunnel every 10 years.
Veteran hard boat paddlers who eschew using outfitters might want to think again for several reasons. Arnold says he sees many kayakers and canoeists who book friends and family on rafting trips so they can share the Gauley experience. “We also have lots of experienced boaters who paddle with us first to get the lay of the river,” he says. “That’s especially important this year, even with Gauley veterans, in that we’ll have unprecedented levels and rapids.” Arnold says he’s also seen more interest than ever by new and returning guides.
The Gauley River has more class IV and V rapids than any other river in the East. The 25-mile run drops 668 feet and creates more than 100 rapids. This year, the Corps will start with 2,800 CFS for the September 9-12 and September 16-19 scheduled releases and then begin releasing flows of up to 3,200 cfs per day (except Tuesdays) September 21-26, September 28-October 3, October 5-10, and October 15-17. Good golly!