Monday, August 24, 2015

Rafting West Virginia's New River Gorge

The New River of West Virginia is a misnomer since it has been declared the second oldest river in the world by many. Fifty-three miles of the New River are protected as a free-flowing National River, and 70,000 acres of adjacent land are protected between the towns of Hinton and Fayetteville. The bridge carrying traffic over the New River Gorge is the second longest single arch bridge in the world, and two of the four lanes are closed to traffic on the 3rd Saturday of every October -- "Bridge Day" for walkers, gawkers, recreational jumpers, and rappellers.

Rafters can enjoy the scenery during the intervals between rapids, but full attention is required on the twenty-plus class 2, 3, and 4 rapids along the eight mile stretch called the "lower New River" running through the magnificent New River Gorge, nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of the East."

I was unable to take photos while negotiating rapids because it was crucial to continue paddling hard to achieve the position our guide, Maggie, wanted, but I was able to photograph rafts following us after we had reached safe eddies.


The warm water in the calm pools between rapids beckons swimmers, and we jumped in several times. This shot is from water level as we play a bit. Maggie was a phenomenal guide, detailing each approaching rapid, including its name, rating, technical challenges and dangers, and even coaching us as to what we should do if we fell out of the raft in the rapid (swim to river left, or river right, or "diddle down the middle.") The rafting company, Rivermen, was an excellent outfiter which I highly recommend for both its excellent equipment and guide training.

The scenery was majestic, and while we were in calm water we could savor it.

The photo below shows the world famous New River Gorge Bridge. When it opened in 1977, it reduced a 40 minute drive on mountain roads to a one minute drive across the bridge. It remains one of the most photographed places in the state.

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