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Old 08-31-2011   #1
NathanH.'s Avatar
N/A, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 325
Gauley 2011

Heading to the Gauley here in a couple weeks and am looking for some tips for the trip and also looking for anyone else who wanted to go.

We're leaving Thursday (The weekend of the fest) @ 6:00 pm and planning on driving through the night. Hopefully we'll be there Friday night ready to catch some ZZZ's and boat Saturday and Sunday then leave Sunday after we boat and drive back Sunday night and through Monday.

I know sounds ambitious but we're pretty young and can handle it with a few people to rotate driving.


Creek boat or Playboat?

What's the water temperature like? No worse than CO water?

Are the undercuts/sieves/potholes as bad as they're made out to be?... sounds scary.

The other person going is a raft guide on the Ark, will it be pretty easy for her to jump on with rafters there? Judging by boating community I would think it'd be really easy but don't want to be surprised when I get there.

Additional Tips for this en devour?

If anyone else wants to go we have 3 seats left and it's split the gas evenly.

Thanks in Advance!

Nathan H.

This mustache has a weight limit!
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Old 08-31-2011   #2
mdignan's Avatar
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 87
I would take a playboat if you are comfortable enough, there's plenty of play out there. I've only commercially rafted on the Gauley, but I'm planning on bringing my playboat for the Lower this year.

The water temperature is warm. I've always worn a bathing suit and quick dry top under my PFD. You basically want to dress according to the air temperature. It should be plenty warm the weekend you are there, it tends to get colder in October.

The undercuts, sieves, etc are not bad if you know where they are. I wouldn't want to swim any of the big 5 on the upper and there are certainly some spots you don't want to swim on the lower, but it's really not that bad if you know where you don't want to be.

I'm not sure how easy it will be to jump on with other private boaters. I'll leave that to someone else.

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Old 08-31-2011   #3
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 167
Playboat. The water is warm there, similiar to lower ark right now. Keep an eye on the weather in wv to dectde what to wear. I usually paddle in a shorty there. The undercuts are bad but easily avoidable. I have had plenty of friends hang out at the put in and found rafts to hop in. Just make sure she has a paddle. Who knows I might be able to hop in the vehicle for a quick trip.
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Old 08-31-2011   #4
DENVER, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 16
Its a blast, I would say bring a playboat. Water temp is warmer but you are wet for a whole day so dry tops are nice. All the features are as bad as they say, try to find someone who knows the river. It is easy to get into trouble if you are in the wrong place, especially on the upper. Not sure about the rafting situation but I am guessing it shouldn't be to hard to jump on a boat. Make sure you stop by Pies and Pints, be ready to wait. Also breakfast at Cathedral Cafe is a must...i recommend the breakfast quesadilla or banana pancakes. Also dont drink and drive, speed or do anything stupid. The cops are itching for a reason to pull you over. They have been known to setup a dui checkpoint sign before a turn, people turn thinking they are going to miss the checkpoint only to find out they fell for the trap. Last if you are staying at the fairgrounds dont plan on sleeping. Enjoy the party, safe travels

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Old 08-31-2011   #5
mdignan's Avatar
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 87
Originally Posted by Ryman View Post
Also dont drink and drive, speed or do anything stupid. The cops are itching for a reason to pull you over.
Yes, and don't drive through Gauley Bridge if you can avoid it. They just look to pull boaters over there for anything they can.
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Old 08-31-2011   #6
yesimapirate's Avatar
Denver-ish, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 739
If you haven't already found this website, it's got a very detailed description and at least 1 video of every major rapid on the upper and lower Gauley. The guy's high pitched twangy voice gets old real fast but he does tell you the best lines to take. And I will say this - after watching all the videos, the guy had me scared shitless about undercuts and sieves. He's right on about them being there, but he makes it out to be like every one of them will swallow you whole. I swam 3 of the Class 5 at least once, and I'm still here. Almost all the undercuts are easily avoidable (but I guess it's not a bad thing to know where to avoid if you take a swim).

Rapids of the Gauley River Video Tour

Note - even though I was going for Fall high flow, I still watched the low water videos he put on there to help understand what makes the Gauley so gnarly.

Other tips: Last year the actual festival part of Gauley Fest was in Summersville north of the Walmart by/behind the baseball & football fields. We camped just outside the pay area and weren't hassled(but we were also there Thursday night). The fest costs I think 20 bucks, but I would say it was worth the free schwag, music, raft/kayak porn, and killer deals. Bring cash for the killer deals.... not many took CC's. Expect all your stuff to be wet with monster humidity each morning which also translates into a pretty chilly morning until the sun's out. The water seems like bathwater compared to snowmelt, but it gets a little chillier the longer or more times you're in it. Don't spend too long at Pillow because you end up missing all the action at Sweet's.

Pies & Pints was good, but there's nothing that says WV like Tudor's Biscuit World in Fayateville!

If you have more questions PM me. I'm catching a float with some Ark guides out there over the same time you're there.
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Old 09-01-2011   #7
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
One note about dressing for Gauley fest - much like Colorado it can snow in the third week of September, or be 85 and sunny. So while the water isn't Colorado cold by any stretch of the imagination (probably upper 50's-60), the air temp can be quite cold. Bring gear for a cold day on the river and hope for it to be hot.

As for the undercuts - they are there. The Gauley is a big river by Colorado standards. 4000 cfs is a common flow for Gauley season, and the lines are fairly big, 16 foot rafts are standard. It mostly bigish water class III-IV+, with two class V's thrown in (Lost Paddle and Insignificant). It's an awesome river with something like 150 rapids in 26 miles (upper and lower combined). Hell I might even want to throw my shredder in your ride and come along.
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Old 09-01-2011   #8
dillon, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 281
SAme...I definitely think the undercuts/sieves derserve lots of respect...try and go with experienced boaters as the in between rapids can contain innocuous looking sieves and hazards...don't surf or go near initiation. I watched 2 people swim thru it on a commercial was the guide and he knew right where it was but got flushed in there anyway. It is a long day out there...consider taking lunch and saving some energy for the trip instead of surfing for 2 hours in the beginning. Have Fun!!!
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Old 09-01-2011   #9
mdignan's Avatar
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 87
The release will be 2800 cfs when you are out there, they are cranking it up to 3200 cfs the weekend after that. I've only seen it at 2800 cfs, so I have no idea how much it changes.
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Old 09-01-2011   #10
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 111
Don't surf the wave at the top of initiation. it leads right into a death trap.

Be sure to splat the pillow at pillow rock rapid. Big fun. Or catch the room of doom just before it upside down.

Lost paddle has the most undercuts.

The standard lines are pretty much the same all the way up to 5 grand but just alot bigger.

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