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The Gauley is one of the few rivers that has a limited time span during which it can be kayaked. And that time is quickly approaching. Gauley season kicks off with one of the biggest throw down weekends in the country. Gauley Fest is the best paddling festival on the east coast, hands down. The festival is in Summersville, WV and takes place Friday through Sunday, September 14th – 16th.

When most paddlers hear Gauley, they shrivel up with fear. The Gauley is a river that deserves our utmost respect, but not fear. It’s easy to fear the unknown, so I suggest you come out to Gauley Fest and get to know the river! Don’t be intimidated by the stories. Create your own stories. With that being said, there are a few things you should know before making the trip.

1. Respect the river. The Gauley is broken down into two sections—upper and lower. The upper and the lower both hold a lot of power, but are different in their difficulties. The Upper Gauley has massive amounts of power behind it that when not respected can result in accidents. The Lower Gauley is a big step down from the Upper. Still holding the same power, the gradient drops out quite a bit. You will find big waves and huge hydraulics on both. Bottom line…the upper has twice the amount of undercuts and substantially higher gradient, both offering plenty of play spots along the way.
2. Be safe. The Upper Gauley is classified as a Class V run. The risk of injury or death is always there. The best way to be safe and have fun is to go down the river with someone you fully trust to lead you. If you don’t think you are ready to kayak the Upper Gauley, there are tons of outfitters in the area that offer guided raft trips. When I take my family down the Gauley I always trust the outfitter Class VI. Also remember that just because there are 100’s of paddlers on the river, they may not know the right lines either, ask someone specifically where to go before every horizon line.
3. Tricky Shuttle. Shuttle for the Upper Gauley is difficult to figure out your first few times. My advice is to find someone who knows it and get them to go with you, or rely on the park officers. In my experience, the park officers will try to give you directions and help you with just about anything you need.
4. Brutal Hike. The worst part about the Upper Gauley shuttle is the hike out. Heart Attack Hill, as it is so fondly called, is only a ¼ of a mile. However, it is a ¼ of a mile straight up. This is why I always take a playboat! It helps cut about 30 lbs. off your back. If you take a heavier boat and can’t make the hike, the park does offer a service where you can chuck your boat into the back of a trailer and they will drive it to the top of the hill for you.
5. Jackson Booth! Be sure to stop by and see us. The team will be hanging out all weekend and will be more than happy to answer any questions, and tell you all about the new boat designs. But if we aren’t enough for you, than at least come by for burgers and beer! Still not enough? Well, there will also be tons of free swag!! Every year Jackson does an awesome job at raffling boats, gear and tons of swag. Not to be missed.

Hope to see you there!
Eric Bartl