Originally Posted by nervouswater
I would put the Arkansas over any of those. The Gauley is a ton of fun, but it's more on the "extreme" end of the spectrum. A lot of people have died on the river (particularly given its short season) and there isn't an option for a fun, mellow ride. The Arkansas has fun runs throughout every class of whitewater. Personally, I would wait until after the peak of runoff though because the water temperatures become more enjoyable. You can start out with a mellower run like Brown's Canyon and if you like it, you can step up to the Numbers and Pine Creek after that.
I totally disagree with the part about not having a beginner section...what about the lower Gauley??? Also, compared to how many rafters have died on the Ark from foot entrapment, cold-water heart attack, and flush- drowning the Gauley isn't that far off if you compare one season to the next, all those stats are on AW. Having commercially guided both, I would definitely saw the lower Gauley is easier than Bighorn or Browns...also the Gauley is commercially run all year, especially in Spring when they can have huge runoffs...the fall Gauley season is nice and predictable, but not the only time it runs. While the Ark is my home river...I totally think the upper G has it beat for scenery, rapids, and character and its my favorite daytrip. The grand is definitely my favorite multi-day but I don't feel its fair to try and compare multi-day trips to single day runs