Work your way to Class V

Master the rapids in 2017! Few outdoor feats top the daring rush of whitewater rafting. If you’d like to challenge yourself for the new year, try progressing from Class I to V rapids in the New River Gorge!

You’ll always be boating with a professional guide, so with some practice, you can easily work your way from playful ripples all the way to one of the world’s top 10 whitewater rivers.

River 1: The New

Your rafting education starts on one of America’s best whitewater destinations: the New River.

This ancient river has sculpted and carved unique passageways for millennia. The result: twisting, high-volume water, perfect for rapids.

The Upper New Families and beginners start here, with good reason.

The Upper New’s 15 miles consist of pleasant riffles, lengthy pools and, sometimes, some irregular chop. Rapids don’t exceed Class III, so even kids can handle it. (In fact, if they’re up for the adventure, they can paddle their own inflatable kayak!)

Plus, the Upper’s calm sections give you plenty of time to relax and prepare for the next bunch of waves. You can even take an occasional dip!


The Lower New  Here’s where things start picking up. Get ready for 16 miles of churning, foaming adventure!


As you leave the calm Upper behind, the river becomes more rambunctious. Higher water volume feeds more than 20 rapids, some exceeding Class IV. Along the way, your raft will encounter boulders, holes and muscular currents. It’s a wild (but still family-friendly) ride!

Adventures on the Gorge rafting

Some noteworthy Lower rapids include:

  • Miller’s Folly, Class IV: be prepared for an enormous wave train, holes and the sneaky Invisible Rock.
  • Fayette Station, Class IV: when you see 2 bridges, get ready for quite a ride! This one has holes and feisty waves.
  • Double Z, Class IV+ or Class V: you’ll have to twist your way through a zig-zag course on this one.

River 2: The Beast of the East

After you’ve ridden the Lower several times, it’s time to tackle the Gauley River— one of the world’s best whitewater spots. Sweeping through a remote National Park, the setting is peaceful and serene with picturesque wilderness. The waves? Not so calm!

You can run it through the year if you happen to catch the high rains, but in the fall, the Army Corps of Engineers releases the dam for a guaranteed powerful flow.

The Lower Gauley The Lower Gauley is less famous than its roaring Upper sibling, but it’s definitely got that same high-adventure thrill. It’s a good kick up from even the Lower New’s big waves, and a world-class run that will really sharpen your skills.

… and you’re ready for “World Top 10” whitewater! The Upper Gauley is famous for a reason! Its infamous “Big 5” rapids are Class V behemoths that attract expert paddlers from all over the globe.

When you’re ready, take on the famous 5:

  • Insignificant: full of tricky elements, like a massicce pour over, holes and rocks.
  • Pillow Rock: known as the “Best 10 Seconds in Whitewater.” Water piles over its namesake boulder in a “pillow,” which will slide you right up and over.
  • Lost Paddle: the Gauley’s longest rapid, thanks to 4 drops punctuated with rolling wave trains. But if the water’s high enough, those drops merge into 1 writhing mass.
  • Iron Ring: technical sections demand your attention before a big drop.
  • Sweet’s Falls: a 14-foot waterfall steals the show on this rapid. You’ll probably have an audience cheering from the cliffs above.

Still want more? You can run the Gauley in combo trips to double your challenge. Take a long full-day marathon of the entire river, or take on that beastly Upper, then hop on the bus to go back and run it again!

Of course, you can also make it a full rugged weekend and spend the night on the banks to break up your 2-day rafting trip.

Which rapid are you eager to try?