Things To Know
If you have a love of adventure, you can't do better than West Virginia, where you'll find America's BEST Whitewater. Thrilling, exhilarating, exciting, even relaxing ... the West Virginia whitewater rafting experience is all this and more.
Rafting can run the gamut from calm, peaceful float trip that allows you to fully appreciate the spectacular scenery to a challenging adventure that stirs your adrenaline. All it takes is one trip. No matter which you choose, you're bound to get hooked.
Is it safe?
Like all adventure sports, there is an element of risk in rafting and you will be asked to sign a liability waiver. However, West Virginia's commercial outfitters follow strict safety precautions and have an exemplary record of safety on the water. Serious incidents are extremely rare. Guides go through rigorous training in water safety, rafting techniques and first aid before they ever take a commercial trip down the river.
The biggest danger on the river is failing to follow the instructions of your professional guide. Your guide knows the obstacles to avoid and the safest way to negotiate every rapid. Follow his or her instructions and you'll have a safe and enjoyable trip.
Do I need experience?
No experience is necessary to get started. Most West Virginia river adventures are suitable for novice and expert alike. Experienced guides teach you paddling techniques and important maneuvers before you hit the big water.
Prior experience is recommended for the Gauley River and, at high water, the more challenging Cheat River trips. Other sections of the Cheat are open to novices.
Can I do it?
You betcha nearly everyone can-even those who are out of shape, overweight, elderly, physically challenged or have some combination of these conditions. Some outfitters arrange trips for those with specific physical challenges. Just ask about your special concerns when you call.
What are the age requirements?
These vary according to outfitter, and by the specific trip planned. Typical requirements are 12-14 for the Lower New River, 14 for the Lower Gauley, and 16 for the Upper Gauley.
My children are good swimmers. Do the age requirements apply to them?
Yes. Swimming ability is just one of the safety considerations in rafting. Rafting is a group activity requiring teamwork, stamina and maturity. Outfitters set the age requirements based on the difficulty of the trip involved. If your child does not yet qualify for one of the advanced trips, there are many more suitable trips available.
What should I bring?
Essentials include a swimsuit and footwear suitable for the river. Tennis shoes are acceptable but are heavy when soaked - river sandals (the kind that strap on fully) are recommended. (Old-fashioned "flip-flops" have a way of disappearing downriver!) Beyond that, you'll want to bring a T-shirt for warm-weather trips. For cooler weather, wool or specialty warmth materials such as Gore-Tex are recommended instead of cotton, which tends to retain moisture and keep the cold in.
Sunscreen and sunglasses also are a good idea, even on cloudy days. The water is highly reflective and without protection you can get a serious sunburn, even when the sun is not fully out. You'll also want to bring towels for an after-trip shower.
All necessary safety equipment is provided by your outfitter, and wetsuits can be rented whenever needed. Check with your outfitter on any other special equipment they recommend for your particular trip.
What's with the ratings on rapids?
Whitewater rapids are classed according to the difficulty they pose, from Class I to Class VI. Novices can run class I to II stretches without a guide, while Class III to V segments require real paddling skill and/or the kind of leadership provided by professional outfitters.
Why don't we run any Class VI rapids?
Class VI water is defined as dangerous for anyone, regardless of experience - it is for persons with little or no sense of self-preservation, and it is not run commercially. Our recommendation: Stick to the videos.
Every day on the river is a party, but we do it without alcohol or other substances. Rafting requires teamwork: The safety of others depends on your ability to function and react appropriately. Impaired rafters are menaces to themselves and others.
All outfitters have absolute prohibitions against alcohol or other controlled substances while you're on the river. If you are caught with either, you will be prohibited from taking your trip or you will be put onshore immediately.