5 Best Places To Go Whitewater Rafting in West Virginia

Though we haven’t found as many spots in West Virginia to go white water rafting, there are a few locations that we really enjoy.

If you find yourself in the state and looking for a good spot for some whitewater rafting action, then we suggest one of the five locations listed below.

These are our top picks in West Virginia for the whitewater rafting enthusiast.

New River (Upper)

For families with young children, finding a river experience can be difficult since most rafting trips have a minimum age requirement. 

But with the Upper New River, age is not an issue. 

It’s mostly composed of shallower shoals and pools that are ideal for swimming, with a few rapids that are easy to navigate. 

It’s the perfect way to introduce young children to the great outdoors, encourage them to look for wildlife, and teach them to love outdoor treks. 

Families can rent ‘duckies’ (small kayak-style rafts that fit two people apiece) to navigate the river, or they can just leisurely enjoy nature watching, swimming, and rafting through this stretch of river.

white water west virginia
credit: Flickr, James Sullivan

New River (Lower)

As the kids get older, families might want to start looking for more challenging river adventures. 

In summer, the Lower New River is a good stepping stone for both young and beginning rafters. 

It’s 8 miles long, or 27 rapids, that are intermingled with calmer pools to give rafters a break. 

Rafters can tackle obstacles such as Jump Rock and Swimmer’s Rapid while they’re out on the river, and can see historical tidbits of West Virginia’s coal mining industry. 

For a real challenge, try tackling this stretch of river in the spring; snow melt and seasonal rains cause the river to swell for a much higher-intensity rafting experience.

Shenandoah River

Looking for a little history to go with your rafting trip?  Look no further than the Shenandoah River. 

With class II-III rapids, this trip promises a few thrills on an otherwise calm rafting adventure.  

This trip takes you from Knoxville, Maryland down through both Virginia and West Virginia for 6.5 miles. 

Covering both the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, you’ll pass through the Blue Ridge Mountains while seeing sights like Harper’s Ferry, White Horse, and Bull’s Tail. 

You might also be fortunate enough to spot wildlife along the way such as ospreys, herons, or even bald eagles.

Upper Gauley River

If you’re looking for a real edge-of-your-seat rafting challenge, the Upper Gauley River is your best ticket around. 

Along with major rapids like Pillow Rock, Insignificant, Iron Ring, and Sweet’s Falls, you can brave the class III-V+ rapids as you descend 335 feet in under 13 miles. 

Every Fall, the challenge increases as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases flood-level waters from the Summersville Dam into the Gauley, upping the challenge and the excitement. 

This is definitely not a stretch of river for the inexperienced or faint-of-heart rafter.

Lower Gauley River

For a slightly-less intense rafting run than the Upper Gauley River, try the Lower Gauley River. 

While it’s slightly mellower, it’s still a significant challenge even for experienced rafters. 

It’s 17 miles of rapids that go up to class V, so endurance is definitely a must when tackling this river. 

The rapids are much longer, wave-like ones, some with names like Pure Screaming Hell, Canyon Doors, Koontz Flume, and Heaven Help Us. 

This river is geared more toward intermediate rafters, but adventurous beginners who need a step up from the Lower New River are welcome as well.

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