Lower Gauley River, WV

Ivan Jager, Brian Kish, Jeff Johnston and I headed to Summersville, WV on Friday for the largest whitewater festival in the world- GAULEYFEST. GauleyFest is an annual festival that draws thousands of whitewater kayakers, rafters, and other whitewater enthusiasts. The parties are enormous, but the whitewater is even bigger- the Gauley River, fed by scheduled releases from Summersville Dam, has consistent Class V water on its Upper portion, and consistent III-IV water on the Lower portion. We did the lower portion both Saturday and Sunday.

The quote of the trip was heard the very first night we got to the festival. I asked Brian while walking through the festival campground, "Will most people here be doing the Upper or the Lower Gauley tomorrow?" A random fellow we had no association with helpfully chimed in, "Most people here are doing LSD, man." Thank you random man.

We awoke at 7 am both days and did the Lower Gauley with folks from the Three Rivers Paddling Club (TRPC) and from Pitt's outdoors club, most of whom Brian knew. The water was ENORMOUS. Specific examples include: 5 boat hole, a hole which 5 boats could surf (easily) at a time; Koontz Flume, essentially a class IV highway of whitewater; Lower Mash, a 8' tall wave that we attempted to surf (check if the videos we took are up); and Pure Screaming Hell, a class IV rapid with a GIANT hole at the bottom which Ivan attempted to defeat (keyword: attempted) (again, check to see if video is up). All in all, the water, for Jeff, Ivan, and myself, at least, was some of the biggest we had ever seen. 11 miles of paddling a day, a 3.5 hour drive there, and a giant festival of Dionysian hippies and free kayaking promotional deals all made a great weekend :) Return to Pittsburgh was approximately 9 pm Sunday night.

-D. Stone