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Gauley River in West Virginia

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

After nearly two weeks of rain, the flow of the Gauley River was multiplied eight-fold. This was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing in that the river was almost too low to canoe on before the rains came, and a curse because the group of six that had planned a three day trip had been whittled down to just two of us. With rain in the forecast, cooler weather, and the presumed high water four in the group decided to pass on the 34-mile trip down the scenic Gauley River. But thankfully, my buddy Jamie and I decided to go and enjoy what Mother Nature had in store for us.

We both drove to the drop off point, which was near Craigsville at the WV Route 55 bridge that crosses the river. I dropped my truck off and we proceeded upstream to Jerryville, the headwaters of the Gauley. We paddled the first day about 14 miles past old coal prep plants, homesteads long forgotten, and a few class I's and II's. We passed the towns of Bolair and Cowen. After passing the confluence with the Williams River, the flow doubles as did the rapids. We shot a couple of Class III's and our Mad River Teton preformed tremendously. We dried out and set up camp just past the rapids on river left near an old railroad grade.

The next morning, we packed the canoe and headed down stream. Near the town of Camden on Gauley, there is about three miles of flatwater that made for some good fishing - mostly smallmouth and redeye. We paddled a few miles downriver of Camden and set up camp for day two. With the threat of rain, we suspended a large tarp from the trees and made fine, comfortable campsite. That night we enjoyed a great meal of noodles and ham, corn on the cob, and potatoes cooked in the hot coals.

The next morning, we broke camp and continued on to the take out about 6 miles away, through some fun class II's. This trip should only be done with plenty of flow (the river gage at Craigsville read 12 ft when we went). Anything lower and you may be dragging bottom a lot. You should also be prepared to get wet from the rapids coming over the bow, or by simply going in the drink. Luckily we stayed right side up the whole trip. And our buddies back home were probably kicking themselves when the sun was shining and the weather was great for the majority of the weekend.


Plenty of campgrounds around the Summersville area.


Mad River Teton, Old Town Wood Paddles, Life Jackets, and all the camping gear.


No fees. If fishing, you are in the Monogalia National Forest and need a National forest stamp.


Take I-79 to WV19, go south to Summersville, turn east onto CR41 to Craigsville, turn south on CR 20 to the bridge (takeout). Go back to Craigsville and stay on CR20 to the small town of Bolair. Turn right onto Gauley River Road. Proceed for about 6 or 7 miles to a small bridge owned by a timber company (put-in).

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location