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When Can You Raft the Upper Gauley River?

Gauley River National Recreation Area draws many visitors who want an exciting rafting adventure. For those who want to test their skills, the Upper Gauley River is a challenging whitewater rafting experience. When is a good time for rafting Gauley River? If you’re planning a trip to the area, keep the following in mind.


The Upper Gauley River is meant for those who are experienced whitewater enthusiasts. You won’t find peaceful waters to glide along in this 12-mile section of the river, with rapids rated class III to V+. Instead, you can expect a high-impact whitewater adventure filled with rough rapids and tough areas to navigate, such as narrow chutes and steep drops. The entire rafting expedition is an action-packed experience as you make your way through Iron Ring, Sweet’s Falls, Pillow Rock, and other rapids.  The Upper Gauley is a uniquely challenging single-day white water rafting trip. It’s intense and definitely not for newbies.  Previous paddling experience is recommended and the minimum age to run the Upper Gauley is 16.


Rafting Gauley River can be done during summer, depending on water flows. The water tends to fluctuate on a daily basis in summer, creating an adventurous whitewater rafting experience. From Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, visitors can raft the Upper Gauley River when water flows are considered suitable. While summer rafting adventures can be thrilling, keep in mind that the Upper Gauley River might not be available on certain days based on current water flows.


Going rafting on the Upper Gauley River in fall is often considered the ideal time to go. Rafting Gauley River on the upper section during fall means you’ll be surrounded by stunning views of fall foliage while navigating the rapids. Fall foliage views combined with views of the slopes and cliffs along this part of the river make whitewater expeditions even more memorable. Fall is also when water flows are at their peak on a regular basis, allowing more expeditions to take place. Fall rafting on the Upper Gauley River starts the weekend after Labor Day and continues through mid-October.


When you plan on putting your whitewater skills to the test, consider a raft upgrade. Upgrading to a smaller raft gives you more maneuverability and a better performance overall. With a smaller raft, you can also expect a greater surge of adrenaline while making your way through the Upper Gauley River. You’ll need to meet certain requirements for a raft upgrade, such as being in excellent health and over the age of 18. You should also make sure you’re able to handle adverse conditions as calmly as possible, since this section of the river can be incredibly difficult to navigate.

The Lower Gauley is the perfect prelude to the intense Upper Gauley.  The Lower Gauley is characterized by big whitewater, invigorating rapids and breathtaking scenery.  This adventure is well suited for enthusiastic first time rafters.  Or to take full advantage of the Gauley River, you may want to consider our Lower/Upper Gauley Reverse Trip.  This premium trip includes two full days of rafting – warm up the first day on the Lower Gauley and then challenge the Upper Gauley on day two.

Ready to make a reservation for West Virginia river rafting this fall? Contact River Expeditions to book single day rafting, a full Gauley marathon, or a value package with single day rafting and two nights camping. Our family-owned and operated adventure outfitter can make sure you enjoy a thrilling whitewater experience.

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