6 accessible river spots to launch your boat

Launch your boat for a scenic paddle in West Virginia, where you’ll find some of the most scenic rivers in the country.

Whether you’re a paddler at heart, want to find a way to the best fishing areas or geared up for a wild whitewater ride, the Mountain State will not disappoint.

Here are the best places to launch your boat in 6 of the state’s top rivers:

1. Middle Fork River

Upshur County, North-Central WV
Best for: Kayaks, small boats, rafts

The 35-mile Middle Fork River is a whitewater kayaker’s paradise, with rapids from Class I to Class IV. The quieter areas are also known for fly fishing, and trout are plentiful. The easiest place to launch your boat is on the right fork of the Middle Fork River in Upshur County. It’s also a great spot to catch fish, but if you continue following the river, you’ll hit the rapids for a wilder ride.

2. Buckhannon River

East Side of Bridge at Boulder, North-Central WV
Best for: Canoes, small boats, rafts

Nearly 80% of the 45-mile Buckhannon River runs through forests, so it’s perfect for scenic paddling. The southern waters are a much slower and ideal for fishing. You can catch muskies, smallmouth bass, carp and rock bass. The launch point in Boulder marks the beginning of one of the most-loved river floats in the state. It stretches 4.7 miles and ends at the covered bridge at Carrollton. There, you can kick back, relax and truly appreciate the West Virginia river life.

3. Big Coal River

Fosterville, Southern WV
Best for: Rafts, kayaks, canoes

The Coal River flows north through what used to be a major region for coal mining. Because the rapids’ water levels are so shallow, you probably won’t want to take larger boats on this river. One of the most popular stretches on the Big Coal River begins in Boone County’s Fosterville and flows for 7.5 miles until the take out in Racine. Most of this river run passes through private land, so be respectful of the property, don’t get out of your boat and leave no trace behind.

Red kayak, Tygart River, West Virginia

4. Tygart River

Philippi Covered Bridge, East-central WV
Best for: Kayaks, small boats

Even in the driest of seasons, the 135-mile Tygart Valley River tends to have a strong flow, giving it the nickname “the last water in West Virginia” and making it a hotspot for whitewater kayakers. Hop on at the Philippi Covered Bridge at the intersection of U.S. 119 and U.S. 250. The gravel lot has 20 parking spaces, but is well-maintained, so it’s it easily accessible for all vehicles. Because the road down is a gravel 1-laner, it’s ideal for small or non-motorized boats.

5. Cranberry River

Nicholas County, Southwestern WV
Best for: Canoes, kayaks

The Cranberry River is one of the most scenic in West Virginia. It runs through the Monongahela National Forest, so it’s perfect for wildlife watching. It’s home to an abundance of trout, and it’s stocked every April. Get to the Nicholas County boat launch in the Woodbine Recreation Area via National Forest Rt. 76 from Richwood.

Fishing boat, Buckhannon River, West Virginia

6. Cheat River

Cheat Lake, Northern WV
Best for: All boats, paddleboards and more— motorboats welcome

If you are looking for speed, this is the place to go. It’s also a popular spot for waterskiing and wakeboarding. Cheat Lake is a reservoir off of the river near West Virginia University, covering 13 miles. There are 3 different boat launches open for use, all of them located on the east side of the lake. Morgan’s Run Park Boat Ramp sits at the far north of the reservoir, Sunset Beach is a marina just off of highway 43 and the Edgewater launch is at the lake’s south end, off of highway 68. This part of the Cheat River is one of most easy-to-access waters in the entire state.

Discover more boating >

This post was last updated on March 2, 2022