ACE Adventure Resort is a 1,500 acre commercial outdoor wilderness park located in the New River Gorge, in Fayette County, West Virginia, that had 37,924 whitewater rafting visitors in 2009. ACE is the largest adventure resort in North America and was ranked among The Travel Channel's Top 10 Most Extreme Resorts in the World for 2009.
ACE offers 17 activities, its mainstay whitewater rafting, along with Zip Line Canopy Tours, rope courses, ATV rides, horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking clinic, swimming, kayak tours, paintball, a mud obstacle course, adventure lake and beach, fishing, camping, team-building and Bridge Walk tours.
ACE operates guided trips on two rivers: the New River (Kanawha River) and the Gauley River, which ranks among the world's top whitewater rivers. The New River has more than 20 rapids and more water volume than the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
Rock climbing, began on the New River Gorge after the first climbing route up one of the canyon's hard rock cliffs in 1977. The gorge has 30- to 120-foot-high sandstone cliffs that now include more than 1,500 identified climbing routes in the gorge and another 500 routes in the nearby National Park Service-administered Gauley River National Recreation Area.
In team-building, corporate groups and other teams can climb a 30-foot high tower ropes course, schedule rock climbing or whitewater rafting.
Among the resort's newest offerings are Zip Line Canopy Tours and Bridge Walk tours. Zip Line Canopy Tours allow guests to glide through the tree canopy more than 50 feet above the forest floor, where they ride a series of zip lines linked by tree platforms and cliff-tops while taking in surrounding scenery. Speeds reach an average 35 mph.
ACE began offering Bridge Walk tours directly under the New River Gorge Bridge in spring 2010, allowing visitors to walk 850 feet above the New River on a 30-inch-wide piece of steel. The catwalk lies 30 feet below the bridge's traffic deck and reaches 3,030 feet across the canyon.
Other accommodations at ACE include a 5 acre lake and beach, 27 hotel-style cabins, 27 rustic houses and 30 different kinds of tents, along with 40 horses for riding. ACE will begin offering snowtubing in the winter, along with mountain globing, where participants roll end over end down a specially contoured hill while standing in a large globe, ending in a large adrenaline rush.
The property that ACE now occupies was once a favored hunting and fishing retreat of President Harry S. Truman. The former strip mine surrounded by wooded forest was bought by American Canadian Expeditions (ACE) in 1988. There were only three buildings on the property when ACE took residence: the house Truman stayed in when visiting, an A-frame for the Secret Service contingent and a small lodge structure near one of the property's five lakes. The lodge was expanded to a present day dining facility.
ACE began operation in 1980 out of a rented room at the old Chuckwagon Motel, where the two original owners met up with vacationers before raft trips. The company bought four rafts from Wildwater Expeditions, the first whitewater rafting outfitter to make a trip down the Gauley and which ACE recently acquired. Original ACE owner Ernie Kincaid began kayaking on the New River as a teenager in 1969, one year after the first rafting company successfully made it down the river, and would follow rafters down on his kayak.
In 1988, ACE started building a full-scale resort on its present day property.
In the 2000s, the whitewater rafting industry took a slight downturn that many in the industry attribute to a populace that prefers video games to the outdoors. The industry again took a hit as the economy hit a major hiccup and slumped into the Great Recession. A group of West Virginia whitewater rafting outfitters, comprised of ACE Adventure Resort, Wildwater Expeditions, Songer Whitewater and New River Gorge Adventures, have formed an alliance intent on promoting the whitewater rafting industry and increasing the number of customers coming into the state. This comes after a number of mergers and partnerships in the past decade as other owners have decided to get out of the business.