How to Rock the Gauley Festival: Step 2 – PLAY hard!

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Boat raffles, AW silent auction, videos music and drinking are all at the festival but let’s face it, you’re not driving all this way for the night-life! The shining star of the Gauley Festival is the Gauley River but West Virginia in Fall is simply one of the greatest places in the world to be. Let me introduce you to a few of my favorite activities:

1. Good Gauley! The Gauley river runs at PERFECT flow guaranteed (Thanks AW and the local RAFTING industry!) – so there’s creek lines and slots, plus 100 play spots on the Upper, open water class 2-3 (4) of the Middle, wide open river running with some great surfing on the lower, or you can burn down all 24 miles in a long boat if you so desire. Shorter play sections are scarce but can be found too. If you don’t mind a steep hike with a play boat, you can put in at the dam, play your head off, and take out on the right above Pillow Rock. It’s a VERY steep trail up to Carnifax Ferry but makes for a short day with only Initiation and Insignificant to worry about so you can stay at Geek Wave all day. Also, from the parking at Mason Branch (or the hiking take out of the upper) you can walk UPSTREAM to Sweets Falls and put on to enjoy several great play spots on the way down. Squirters hike up just a short jaunt for ”Last Chance” which gets IDEAL as the water drops at the end of the day. SUP’ers hike or paddle DOWNSTREAM from here for the infamous ‘perfect wave’ that also stays good down to fish-flow. There’s also fun loop to be had at the end of a 4wd road down to Bucklick Branch – the old put in for the Lower Gauley. A put in here gets you to Koontz Flume, Canyon Doors and Junkyard – all of which offer good playspots – and there’s a rafting take-out/road on river left that you can hike back up over the ridge and back down to the left and you’ll end up just upstream of where you put in, adding ”Backender” to your day before ending up at your car once again.

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2. What’s old is NEW: The New River Gorge is one of the most visually amazing runs on the East Coast, with towering boulders and cliff faces a thousand feet up as you drift thought the meandering pools mixed with technical rapids. In fall the ‘big water’ wave trains are just a memory but rapids like Upper Railroad, Lower Keeney, Miller’s Folley and Fayette Station are still big enough to entertain. This is a great option for those who want a warm-up before the Lower Gauley or who just want a shorter, lower stress day after the fest. Squirt boaters will be lined up below Lower Keeney for the famous ”Halls of Karma” whirlpools and for an added thrill pressurize your ears, hop off the rock and see what all the fuss is about.

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3. Dry Day-trips: There are excellent bike trails in Fayetteville at Arrowhead Trails and also at ACE rafting – plus a bike rentals at Marathon and New River Bikes bike shops right in town. There is ‘Hard Rock’ climbing guide service and Water Stone Outdoors shop in Fayetteville too. And of course there is the visitor’s center bridge overlooks and all sorts of things to discover there. But – if you’re like me you might rather go somewhere a bit more rugged and a bit less travelled and so: here’s a few of my favorite places to hike. A. Mann’s Creek: Go to Babcock State Park, park at mill house waterfall, hike downstream checking out the rapids and cabins and whenever you get tired, there’s an old road way up on river left to take you right back up to the car. There are plenty of other hikes in the park too. B. Meadow River: Park at 19 bridge, hike down to old RR grade, hike down and explore the various undercut and sieves that make this Lower Meadow run so infamous as you take cooling swims along the way. C. The Dries: Find Hawksnest Dam parking. Hike up trail to dam or downstream into river bed. Enjoy swimming holes, natural slides and lots of hot rocks and bouldering sites.

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So there you have it – some alternative ways to enjoy the Gauley Fest days that will put you out in the West Virginia Wonderland and make you tired enough to sleep through the mayhem. See you at the festival! Clay Wright

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