Do you know how the Gauley River’s ‘Lost Paddle’ received its name?

Traversing the legendary Gauley River is no easy task. Rafters have been flocking to its world-renowned rapids for years, and West Virginia has even dedicated an entire season to it.

In the late 1960s, just after the completion of the Summersville Dam, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was considering building another dam that would essentially eliminate the rapids along the Gauley River. Since the Gauley was still mostly untamed at the time, riders found it necessary to name the rapids – hoping that this would make their case against the second dam more credible.

Barb Brown was one of the members of the test runs intended to help name the rapids. Little did she know that she was about to name one of the most iconic rapids in the world. The group approached what was known as “Mile-Long Shoals” – one of the more difficult stretches of whitewater along the Gauley. Brown’s kayak was flipped as she hit the rapids, leaving her to swim to the bank of the river. Brown lost her paddle in the process – one that had been specially made for her by a friend. The group searched extensively for it, but sadly, it was nowhere to be found. The next day, the group returned to complete their run of the Gauley, and in honor of Brown they decided to name the rapids “Lost Paddle.”

Years later, the paddle was miraculously discovered nearly 15 miles downstream and returned safely to Barb. Luckily, the second dam was never built, and now the Gauley brings rafters from around the world every fall. If you ever find yourself rounding the bend and approaching Lost Paddle, be sure to remember Barb and the countless others that helped solidify the Gauley River as one of the premiere rafting destinations in the world.

Are you brave enough to run the Gauley?

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This post was last updated on March 17, 2022