6 Incredible Almost Heaven whitewater rivers and how to experience them

Among many attractions, West Virginia offers visitors some of the most incredible whitewater rafting in the world. Since 1968, rafters have been exploring rivers across the state, forging the way as they discover the most exciting rapids and the safest ways to experience them. Whether it be an action-packed day running Class V rapids or a day spent with family floating the river, West Virginia is the place to be. Rivers across the state offer visitors the chance to fulfill their own dreams of adventure right here in the Mountain State!

New River

The New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world and is a staple of West Virginia. One of the most recognizable images in the state is the New River Gorge Bridge, which is located in Fayetteville, and is the third-highest bridge in the United States towering 876 feet above the river. Rafters floating the New River will have the best view of the iconic arch that is currently the fourth-longest single-span arch bridge in the world! The New River was first rafted in 1968, and since then it has been one of the most popular whitewater rivers in the world! Various outfitters like ACE Adventure Resort, Adventures on the Gorge, and River Expeditions offer visitors tours from spring to fall. In the Spring, look out for famous rapids like Barry’s Hole and Lollygag. In the fall, you can find rapids like the Middle and Lower Keeney rapids. No matter what time of year you visit, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable experience!

Gauley River

Every Fall, rafters from across the world flock to the Gauley River for “Gauley Season.” In September and October, the Summersville Dam is drained which creates world-class rapids that have led to the Gauley being referred to as the “Beast of the East.” The Upper Gauley offers rafters five Class V rapids: Insignificant Rapid, Pillow Rock Rapid, Lost Paddle Rapid, Iron Ring, and Sweet’s Falls. The Lower Gauley is known for iconic rapids like the Mash Bros. rapids and Pure Screaming Hell rapids. Regardless of which portion of the river you choose, you’re in for the thrill of a lifetime!

Shenandoah & Potomac rivers

Located in the Eastern Panhandle, the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers offer fun for rafters of any age and experience! For more aggressive and exciting rapids, rafters are encouraged to visit in the spring. Visitors seeking more family-friendly fun are encouraged to visit in the summer due to lower water levels. The rivers offer rafters Class I-III rapids while winding past historic Harpers Ferry – the site of John Brown’s raid in 1859! River Riders Family Adventure Resort offers visitors rafting tours as well as flat water and whitewater tubing!

Cheat River

While the New River and Gauley River receive most national and world-wide recognition, West Virginia has much more to offer! The Cheat River to the north offers rafters the same excitement and beauty found in the New River Gorge. Much of the Cheat River is Class IV, but the Cheat Narrows contain Class II-III rapids for less experienced rafters. The Cheat Canyon’s season extends from early spring to mid-June, but the Cheat Narrows’ season lasts from spring to summer! Some of the outfitters for river tours include Cheat River Outfitters, Blackwater Outdoor Adventures, Wilderness Voyageurs and Laurel Highlands River Tours & Outdoor Center.

Tygart River

The newest addition to West Virginia rafting is the Tygart River! Rafters can explore Mountaineer Country while experiencing the Tygart Valley Falls run – a Class III-IV run that flows directly through Valley Falls State Park and offers powerful bumps and drops! Along with Valley Falls State Park, rafters will pass Audra State Park. There is no shortage of beauty and excitement on the Tygart River! Tygart River Outfitters offers tours of the river from Spring to Fall.

more whitewater adventure Order a Travel Guide

This post was last updated on March 1, 2022