“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

"Everybody dies. Not everybody really lives."

The saddest sound in the world is a man saying, "I wish I'd have done that."

Friday, April 6, 2012

New River, West Virginia

It’s not the wildest whitewater river in the East; that honor is reserved for the Gauley. Nor is it the most famous; the Chattooga achieved that distinction by co-starring with Burt Reynolds in Deliverance. But no Eastern river rat can hold his own in a campfire bull session unless he has rafted the New River.

That’s because the New’s big rapids, inspiring scenery, and long stretches of churning water make it one of the East’s premier rafting rivers, arguably the most popular of a legion of exciting whitewater venues stretching from Maryland to Georgia. The New is nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, one of a half-dozen rafting rivers in the state. The steep mountain gradients that spawn these cascading rivers make the area a mecca for eastern river runners (as well as skiers at nearby Snowshoe and Canaan Valley).

Rafters can choose two options from the New’s fifty miles of whitewater; the scenic upper section, a mild float down languid pools and gentle Class II rapids; or the kick-butt lower section, a five-hour run through major Class III, IV, and V drops. There is no time to get your sea legs on the lower New; this 15-mile run baptizes you immediately with a series of rapids that will definitely focus your attention. The lower section has five Class V runs, the best of which is the Keeneys, a series of harrowing rapids that drops over 30 feet in a quarter mile.

But the New is not just brawn--there is beauty to match. The placid water sections stringing together the big rapids are perfect for kicking back and taking in the spectacular scenery of the New River Gorge. The sheer gorge walls—1200 foot tall in some spots--enfold rafters in a blanket of incredibly beautiful mountain terrain. Near the take out on the lower section, the river flows under the New River Gorge Bridge, the longest span bridge in the world and a memorable ending to a thrilling adventure.

DETAILS: The New River is about 30 miles southeast of Charleston, near the town of Beckley. More than twenty outfitters service the New. A couple of notable ones are Mountain River Tours, 800-822-1386 and USA Raft, 800-USA-RAFT. Rafting season runs from March through October. The upper section is perfect for families and most outfitters take kids as young as six or seven; the rougher lower section has a minimum age restriction of twelve. Costs vary, but a one-day trip with an experienced guide in your raft runs about $60 per person and includes lunch. If your New River trip doesn’t satisfy your whitewater lust, other outstanding rivers in the area include the Gauley, the Cheat, the Tygart, and the Youghiogheny. Accommodations are available at Hawk's Nest State Park, near both the New and Gauley rivers. For additional information on the area and to make reservations at Hawk’s Nest call 1-800-CALL-WVA.

(This article originally appeared in SKI Magazine)

1 comment:

  1. Your photo on this post looks familiar. I too have gone white water rafting on the New River and our raft popped up just like that...and out I went; but it was quiet a ride that I thoroughly enjoyed. The Gauley is also on my bucket list. Great post and glad I found your blog.