The East Coast’s undiscovered whitewater gem

The Cheat River ranks among the best for whitewater paddling in the region.

Northeastern West Virginia is chock-full of creeks and rivers for boaters. At the center of it all is the Cheat River, which is excellent for all levels of paddlers.

The Cheat River is a remote, scenic waterway tucked into the hills. It carves a big-volume course through a tight canyon as inaccessible as any in the Pacific Northwest. While accessing the Cheat can be challenging, in terms of its quality, the Cheat is unbeaten.

At its most difficult (in normal flows), the Cheat is a solid Class V. There are 13 miles of river with more than 30 rapids.

The most popular section of the Cheat River is the beginner- and intermediate-friendly Narrows, a 5-mile fun-fest that builds in difficulty from beginning to end. The Narrows rarely goes past Class III rapids, and, it (almost) always gives you room to deal with any challenges you may encounter along the way.

The best section is the Canyon, a Class-V wonderland of boulders, chutes and, in high water, massive waves and swirling holes. Even advanced paddlers should be aware of Coliseum, which is a three-part rapid. These 2 back-to-back rapids stretch close to one mile, and will, no doubt give you a wild ride.

Veterans even need to bring their A-games when the water gets above 16 feet on the new gauge. At that point, beginner and intermediate paddlers might want to rethink running the Cheat.

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This post was last updated on March 16, 2022