The Best Water Activities in New River Gorge

Soak up the sun all summer long in the New River Gorge. With rivers, lakes and streams flowing throughout the area, we have plenty of places to cool off and enjoy some water activities!


There is something special about spending the day out on the water with the warm sun all around you and an ever-changing landscape. Kayaking in the Gorge can take you to incredible places and there is a trip for every kind of adventure seeker. One of the best spots for flat-water paddling is Hawks Nest Lake. The New River flows through Hawks Nest, creating the lake in a dammed section of the river. The gentle waters and panoramic scenery make this lake a paradise for beginner paddlers and families looking for a refreshing day on the water. Experienced kayakers can head to Mill Creek, a two-mile New River tributary that features class IV rapids. Mill Creek can be accessed from the Hawks Nest Rail Trail


Some of the most beautiful places in our area are best seen from the water. One of West Virginia’s top waterfalls, Kanawha Falls, can even be viewed from a paddleboard! From the Kanawha River boat launch downstream, paddle to the relaxing coves hidden behind the falls for a one-of-a-kind sight. Another great area to paddleboard is Summersville Lake. Formed by a dam on the Gauley River, Summersville Lake is the largest lake in West Virginia. 

New River Jet Boats

New River Jet Boats at Hawk’s Nest State Park is the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the New River and catch a glimpse of the spectacular New River Gorge Bridge from down below. Bring the family for a scenic tram ride, then board the 21-foot jet boat for an exciting ride on the river. 


Whether you are new to rafting or you’ve been doing it for years, there is a trip suitable for all skill levels in the New River Gorge. The New River is sectioned into two parts: the Upper and the Lower. Spend the day with your family drifting down the mild Upper or experience in-your-face excitement on the wild Lower. Although typically rafted in the fall, summer water flows on the Gauley River make for an unforgettable and challenging trip for experienced paddlers. Book a trip with one of our rafting outfitters for a thrilling way to stay cool this season. 


Take a dip in one of our area’s refreshing swimming holes. For some fun in the sun that the whole family will enjoy, splash around in Babcock State Park’s Boley Lake. Or let your inner child run wild at Wonderland Waterpark at ACE Adventure Resort. The waterpark is 5-acres and features a 40-foot tall Wet Willie Water Slide, tower zip line, two giant water slides, 50 inflatable toys, lounging spots on the shore and more. For another family-friendly option, jump into the Fayette County Park Pool. The park also offers picnic shelters, pool party rentals, disc golf and fishing. 


Plenty of people know about the excitement that the New River offers rafters, but not many are aware of how good a fishery it is. In addition to being one of the most prolific smallmouth bass rivers on the east coast, the New River holds many other species including walleye, muskie, catfish, largemouth bass, striper and Kentucky spotted bass. Anglers can also cast a line in Gauley River, Hawks Nest Lake or Kanawha Falls for great fishing opportunities

Unique Stays

Settle in after your water adventures at a unique accommodation in the Gorge. From secluded mountain stays to boutique vacation rentals, find the best place to rest at night. Sleep in the sky in a wooded treehouse cabin. The Holly Rock Tree House is located 15 feet in the air around a 75-foot chestnut oak tree. Located just minutes from activities in the Gorge, the Holly Rock is truly an unparalleled lodging experience. At Hawks Nest State Park, you’ll find new Tentrr campsites that are ideal for summertime camping. These sites provide comfortable camping to any adventurer and come equipped with a pre-set canvas tent on a wooden deck platform, a queen-size memory foam mattress, a solar shower, a fire pit with a grill and more. Visit our lodging page for all of our accommodation options. 

Stay and play this summer at America’s newest national park and preserve. Plan your trip now!