Gauley River National Recreation Area: Wikis


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Gauley River National Recreation Area
National Recreation Area
Country  United States
State  West Virginia
Counties Nicholas, Fayette
Location Summersville Dam outlet
 - elevation 1,375 ft (419.1 m) [1 ]
 - coordinates 38°13′12″N 80°53′24″W / 38.22°N 80.89°W / 38.22; -80.89
Lowest point Gauley River
Area 11,507 acres (4,656.7 ha)
Established 1988-10-26
Management New River Gorge National River
Owner National Park Service
Visitation 128,796
Nearest city Summersville, West Virginia
Location of Gauley River National Recreation Area in West Virginia
Website: Gauley River NRA

The Gauley River National Recreation Area, located near Summersville, West Virginia, protects a 25-mile (40 km) portion of the Gauley River and a 5½-mile (9 km) segment of the Meadow River in southern West Virginia. Little of the park is accessible via roads; one must travel via the river. At the upstream end of the park is the Summersville Dam, where upper Gauley River trips put in for their adventure. For the first time since the Gauley River NRA was established, the park now owns mid-river access where upper Gauley trips may take off the river and lower Gauley trips may put on. The river accesses recently acquired are the Masons Branch river access and the new Woods Ferry river access.


Whitewater Rafting

Thousands of whitewater enthusiasts come to the Gauley every fall season, to paddle what is considered by many to be the one of the best whitewater rivers in the country. Gauley Season begins the first weekend after Labor Day, and continues for six weekends (five 4-day weekends, and one 2-day weekend). Dropping more than 668 feet (204 m) through 28 miles (45 km) of rugged terrain, the Gauley River's complex stretch of whitewater features more than 100 rapids with a steep gradient, technical runs, an incredible volume of water and huge waves. Its vigorous rapids, scenic quality and inaccessibility combine to make Gauley River one of the premier whitewater runs in the world. Whitewater rafting attracts over 60,000 adventurers to the Gauley River each year. The upper Gauley offers tremendous class III to V+ drops in steep, turbulent chutes such as Pillow Rock, Iron Ring and Sweet's Falls, and rocky routes that demand constant maneuvering such as Lost Paddle and Shipwreck. This section of the river requires experience and minimum age of 16. The lower Gauley is a 12-mile (19 km) stretch, rated class III to V that feels like a watery roller coaster (minimum age 12–14).

Nature and Science

The Gauley River Basin is part of the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau where the age of the rock strata exceeds 300 million years before present. The high knobs and ridges are deeply dissected by young streams that create narrow canyons with steep slopes.

The Gauley River begins in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, at an elevation of about 4,600 feet (1,400 m). Flowing generally west-southwest and draining 1,422 square miles (3,680 km2), the Gauley meets the New River at Gauley Bridge and forms the Kanawha River, a major tributary of the Ohio River. The mouth of the Gauley River, 107 miles (172 km) from its source, is at an elevation of about 600 feet (180 m). The resulting average rate of fall is 37.4 feet per mile (7.08 m/km).

Downstream from Summersville Dam where the boundary of the recreation area begins, the river has cut a gorge of up to 500 feet (150 m) deep in places. The Gauley River flows through the gorge for approximately 24 miles (39 km) with a stream gradient of 28 feet per mile (5.3 m/km). Within the gorge, the river is characterized by alternating pools and rapids with torrential water, boulders and exposed bedrock.

Vegetation is diverse and abundant. Extremes in topography, elevation and microclimate have caused tremendous variation in plant life. Most of the recreation area is below 2,000 feet (610 m) and contains the central hardwood forest type. Tree species found in this timber type include the red and white oak, American beech, yellow poplar, hemlock and dogwood. Such vegetation supports a wide variety of wildlife species.

There are many rare and threatened species within the recreation area. They include one federally threatened plant species, Virginia spiraea, and five category 2 species, Barbara's buttons, Allegheny woodrat, cerulean warbler, eastern hellbender and finescale saddled darter. Category 2 species may be proposed for threatened or endangered status, but more data is required to confirm the need for such protection. State-listed species of concern found within the recreation area include nine plants, one bird, one butterfly, one fish and two amphibians.

History Timeline

13,000–7000 BC

To the north, in the broad valleys leading to the Gauley River, it is possible that occupation by big game hunters of the Paleo-Indian era took place.


William Morris began to acquire land around Peter's Creek.


Large land patents were granted, many to speculators.


The Koontz New Road, a rough wagon road built along an Indian trail, was completed between Lewisburg and Charleston.


Henry Morris, Conrad Young and Edward McClung settled near present day Lockwood, in the Kessler's Cross Lanes/Peter's Creek area.


Two young daughters of Henry Morris were killed while going to herd cows. Referred to as the "Morris Massacre".


By this time it appeared the Indians had left the area so more families began settling along the tributaries of the Gauley River.


Roadwork completed on Peter's Creek.


Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike was built.


The Civil War battle of Carnifex Ferry was fought.


The Koontz and Scholl families arrive from Switzerland and settle the town of Swiss.


Approximate year of the first successful large-scale log drive from Wood's Mill (near Wood's Ferry) downriver to Kanawha.


Timber cutting begins on a large scale.


Federal government-sponsored digging of a 100-foot-wide (30 m) channel in the Gauley River from Gauley Bridge to 3 miles (5 km) above the mouth of Little Elk Creek takes place.


The Gauley Branch of the C&O Railroad was completed, extending from Gauley Junction northward along the Gauley River and up Twentymile Creek to Greendale, a distance of 14.2 miles (22.9 km).


Great expansion of the coal industry takes place. 1905 The Flynn Lumber Company was established at Swiss.


Around this time, the Cherry River Paper Company, William F. Mosser Company (a tannery), and other industries began operations at Richwood resulting in 21 years of industrial pollution in the Gauley River.


The Sewell Valley Railroad was built from Meadow Creek, along the main line of the C&O to Rainelle Junction.


The Loop & Lookout Railroad extended down the Meadow River to Wilderness (Nallen).


The Kanawha and West Virginia Railroad opens a short line from Belva to Swiss.


The New York Central and Chesapeake and Ohio, forced by the Interstate Commerce Commission to pool their resources in the Gauley River area, form the Nicholas, Fayette and Greenbrier Railway.


The West Virginia State Wild Life League is successful in obtaining funds to clean up the Gauley River, which had become known as the River of Ink because of industrial pollution.


Twenty-eight miles (45 km) of railway, including two tunnels, were built by the NF&G between Swiss and Nallen.


Sayre and Jane Rodman, two mountain climbers from Pennsylvania make the first attempt to raft the whitewater of the Gauley. High water forced the group to return later.


The Rodmans successfully raft the Gauley to Swiss.


The US Army Corps of Engineers completes Summersville Dam, flooding a stretch of whitewater that Rodman says was "absolutely glorious."


John Sweet became the first person to successfully kayak "The Devil's Backbone" rapid. It was later renamed "Sweet's Falls" in his honor.


Paul Breuer of Mountain River Tours is credited with making the Gauley River a viable river for the commercial whitewater rafting industry.


Congress added recreation to the list of purposes defined for Summersville Dam maximizing the number of potential days for boating on the Gauley.


Gauley River National Recreation Area established as part of the National Park Service.


General Management Plan (GMP) for Gauley River National Recreation area is completed.

See also


External links



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