The Best Spots for Water Sports Adventures in West Virginia
Whether you’re looking for serious, high-intensity water sports or you prefer to float, paddle and dive in peace, there’s a body of water in West Virginia that’s calling your name. Lively rivers, pristine lakes and wild water sports unlock plenty of opportunities to go with the flow.
Go Full Force
Class I-V rafting expeditions generate waves of lifelong memories when you ride the best whitewater in the country. Ready for adventurous, athletic pursuits on the waters of West Virginia? Look no further than these awesome whitewater opportunities in Almost Heaven.
The New River may be the world’s second oldest, but you can make every trip feel like the first time by tackling a different stretch each visit. If you’re new to the rafting game or have kids along, ride the Class I–III Upper New River with ACE Adventure Resort or River Expeditions in Oak Hill. Both outfitters offer full-day excursions with a scenic lunch along the river. If you’re looking feeling a rush for unmatched world-class rafting, take on more than 25 Class II–IV rapids along the Lower New River with Adventures on the Gorge in Lansing. Come fall, rafting pros make pilgrimages to the Upper Gauley River to brave the “Beast of the East.” New and Gauley River Adventures in Lansing leads groups through the Class V rapids known for massive waves and drops. For more technical challenges, navigate massive boulders sandwiched between 1,000-foot-tall sandstone cliffs along a dammed stretch known as the New River Dries.
Paddle the generally mild Class I–III waters of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, where West Virginia meets Virginia and Maryland. Gorgeous scenery accompanies 7-mile journeys with River Riders Family Adventure Resort in Harpers Ferry.
Because it’s an undammed river, the water levels and speeds of the Cheat change daily, so you’ll never have the same rafting experience twice. Venture along the Class II–III Cheat Narrows with Blackwater Outdoor Adventures in Parsons or blast through Cheat Canyon (Class III–V) with Albright’s Cheat River Outfitters.
Discover even more whitewater rafting routes and outfitters.
Take it Easy
Looking for something a little more low-key? West Virginia also has plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation on the water. Water sports on calm lakes and gentle rivers provide the perfect alfresco escape during the dog days of summer and beyond.
No need to fly south to get your scuba diving kicks. Sarge’s Dive Shop at Summersville Lake hooks you up with everything you need—including scuba training and certification—to explore the depths of West Virginia’s largest lake. If you’d rather experience “The Little Bahamas of the East” from above, rent SUPs, kayaks, canoes and pontoon boats from Summersville Lake Retreat. Overnight in one of the resort’s chalet-style cabins—a couple of them feature private hot tubs.
Easy access is the name of the game at the clear 1,500-acre Sutton Lake. It’s located just 3 miles off Interstate-79, and Sutton Lake Marina provides all you need for a quintessential day on the water. Go motor-free with kayaks, SUPs and pedal boats, or rev up the excitement with Jet Skis, CraigCats, pontoons and even boats with attached waterslides. For ultimate group lounging, rent 12-foot- long floating water mats that can accommodate you and up to nine of your besties.
Getting fresh air takes on a whole new meaning as you wakeboard across the waters of the 97-mile-long Kanawha River. Kanawha Watersports in Winfield has you covered when it comes to equipment and lessons for beginner and intermediate wakeboarders. They also offer water ski gear and training if you’d rather slice and swerve instead of air trick and bunny hop.
Before it meets the Kanawha River in Charleston, the Elk River rolls at a leisurely pace along the Allegheny Plateau, satisfying seekers of a quiet float. Pack a cooler and head to Yak House Rentals in Clendenin for single or tandem kayaks. Whether you choose the 4.5-mile or 6.5-mile option, you’ll enjoy pretty forest scenes— plus shuttle service that’s included in the rental cost.
Flora and fauna thrive in this southern region once known for coal mining, and one of the best ways to see it all is from the water. Rent a kayak from the Coal River Group, which has rallied to clean up and preserve the Big, Little and Lower Coal rivers. With more than 20 boat launches, 11 trips and 88 miles worth of waterways, the trail allows you to dock in small towns, including St. Albans, home to the scenic Upper Falls dam and a handful of comfort- food restaurants. The Coal River Walhonde Water Trail is the first of its kind in the state.
Want to see what else West Virginia has to offer? Start planning your next adventure with a free Vacation Guide!Request your free Vacation Guide
This post was last updated on August 11, 2023