Ben Kadas reported a very close call on the weekend of October 18th at Kevan’s Folly, the last rapid on the Lower Gauley. He was in a tight chute to the right of the main flow when the low stern of his playboat sank under an undercut. As the boat reached vertical he bailed out. He was sucked underneath the undercut and, much to the joy of his companions, was quickly washed free. He said that the suction was terrific; it felt like he was being flushed down a commode!
Cases lower than normal fall release levels (2400 instead of 2800cfs) necessitated by the drought left exposed rocks in the chutes that had not been encountered in previous runs. You often think you “know” the river until a small change of water levels reminds you of your limits. These incidents point out a real downside to the popular scooped-stern playboat designs. Slots like this are essentially creek moves, and Chris Bell feels that he would have never have been trapped as he was in his creek boat. It also emphasizes the dangers of running the obscure side-channels on the Gauley, even in the easier, unnamed rapids. Some of these chutes are quite difficult, and careful scouting is recommended.