Spring Rafting in West Virginia

When the daffodils start to bloom in Fayette County, it makes a raft guide’s heart pound and blood race – not because we’re really into flowers, but because blooming daffodils and singing frogs in ponds and puddles mean that whitewater rafting in the New River Gorge has arrived.

Spring Rafting in the New River Gorge

Every spring, nature provides rafters with a free upgrade in thrills and adventure – It’s called high water. The river levels we see this time of year on the New River give the river a completely different character than you usually find in June, July and August. Spring rafting on the New River in West Virginia is absolutely the best big-water boating east of the Mississippi River, with water levels and spectacular rapids comparable to those of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. When you come around the bend above the Keeney Brothers and can’t see Whale Rock because it’s under water – you know that rafting is about to get serious! I drove across the bridge at Fayette Station the other day and I can personally assure you that the New River is currently spring-full and bursting with rapidy-goodness.
For those of you who think that rafting is only something to be done in mid-summer when the weather and water are warmer, I’ve got news for you – the thrill of rafting the river in the spring is well worth putting up with what the faint-hearted might consider less-than-optimal temperatures. Yes, the water is cold, but that’s why wet-suits were invented. As my old friend Raven used to say, “There are no bad weather conditions, only inadequate gear”. Rafting companies have wetsuits available for rental and can advise you on additional gear and clothing that will make you more comfortable while you experience the thrill of running the river at its best!
An added bonus of running the river before all those nasty green leaves clutter up the trees is that you can see the true nature of the terrain (rough and rugged squared) – the kind of house-sized boulders and cliffs that make you really glad you’re floating through the gorge instead of trying to climb up and out. It’s also far-and-away the best time of year to get a good look at the human history of the gorge – coke ovens, coal tipples and conveyors – the remains of the old mining operations and towns that lined the river on either side one hundred years ago.
Rafting anytime is good thing, but rafting in the spring is spectacular, and most rafting companies run spring specials that make the trip even more affordable. So if you’re looking for adventure – what are you waiting for?
Mark Lewis
Executive Director of the West Virginia Professional River outfitters