Although the Gauley is one river, most rafting trips will cover either the upper section or lower section. The two sections of the Gauley River differ in length, features, and difficulty. The total length of the commonly-run section of the Gauley River is about 24 miles and the length of each of the two sections will differ depending on where you choose to put in and take out.
The Upper Gauley starts at the Summersville Dam. It is 9.8 miles long if you take out at Mason’s Branch. Some rafters choose to go farther to Wood’s Ferry. The Upper Gauley is more difficult than its downstream counterpart. The Upper section features rapids rated up to class V, some of which are nationally known such as Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, and Sweet’s Falls. This section will take an experienced paddler or guide to make it down safely and enjoyably.
The Lower Gauley can start at either Wood’s Ferry or at Bucklick Branch, slightly downstream, and ends at Swiss. If you go from Bucklick Branch to Swiss the length of the trip will be about 11 miles. The Lower Gauley is the less difficult of the two sections, with rapids from class II to class IV. This ride starts with a hazardous rapid called Koontz Flume. It includes another rapid called Diagonal Ledges where paddlers can stop to surf in the moving water. Near the end of the whitewater, is a class IV rapid called Pure Screaming Hell.
River Expeditions offers trips on both the Upper Gauley and Lower Gauley. For more information about the two sections of the Gauley River, check out the National Park Service’s pages about the Gauley River.