Gauley Season 2020
American Whitewater received the following open letter to boaters from the rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area. This letter will keep you up to date on important management actions of the National Park Service on the Gauley River for the 2020 season. It is important to note that the Tailwaters Campground will be closed due to Covid-19 and social distancing concerns. Other private campgrounds in the area may have limitations on camping, so please plan ahead. As part of our agreement with the land owner, there is no camping allowed on the Legg field that American Whitewater leases for overflow parking.
The 2020 release schedule for Gauley season is posted here.
August 20, 2020
An Open Letter to Gauley River Boaters
The staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area welcome you to the 2020 boating season. The National Park Service (NPS) employees are preparing the river accesses, roads, and other public facilities for the upcoming Gauley River National Recreation Area (NRA) visitation.
As you all are aware, this has been an unusual and unprecedented year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Public land managers across the country, including the NPS, have been challenged with public safety considerations that have resulted in public use restrictions, modifications and closures. The NPS is working to maintain the right balance between public use and public safety for this Gauley season as the conditions of the pandemic continue to change day to day.
The Gauley Tailwaters Campground has been closed since the end of March 2020 as a Covid-19 public health precaution. While some campgrounds across the NPS have started to slowly come back online, at this time it is anticipated that because of social distancing concerns this closure will remain in effect throughout the entire Gauley season. If conditions were to change and the NPS could safely bring the Tailwaters Campground back on line, this information would be shared with the public as soon as possible.
In order to maintain the campground closure, the Tailwaters access road will be closed to traffic each week from 11 pm Thursday to 5 am Monday morning. Vehicles will not be left in the closure area during these times. The NPS will ensure that ample signage is in place to alert boaters to the interim procedural changes and closures. The river accesses will operate much like in the past with few changes.
At Masons Branch, parking is limited and fills to capacity nearly every boating day. The access road will be closed when the parking lot fills up. American Whitewater will once again lease the Legg field above Mason's Branch for boater parking. A special thank you to American Whitewater for once again providing this opportunity for the boating community. The field will be available throughout the Gauley season for private boater parking when the available parking at Masons Branch fills up. Camping in the field is prohibited. The walking trail from the river to the field is ready for those walking or carrying boats and gear. As in the past, the NPS will re-open the Masons Branch access road for unrestricted travel sometime in the afternoon. It will probably re-open around 1 pm, or whenever the bulk of commercial bus traffic is through for the day.
Parking at Wood's Ferry will be managed as it has in the past with limited restrictions. Parking is available but not unlimited and on particularly busy days it may fill to capacity. Boaters are asked to park close together in an organized fashion so that parking opportunities are maximized for fellow boaters. The upstream end of Wood's Ferry is used for boat and gear drop off and pick up and not for parking. Unattended vehicles parked in this area will be towed.
The public river access at Upper Swiss is the only one on the Lower Gauley within the recreation area. Parking is available to boaters in the field. Camping remains prohibited in the field and at the boat launch.
A commercial shuttle service will not be available this year. Boaters should take this into consideration when planning their shuttling needs. Boaters should beware of any shuttle services that are charging fees and operating without a permit in place. These companies or individuals are in violation of Park regulations.
NPS river patrol operations will continue as in the past. The NPS provides daily river patrols during the scheduled releases with an emphasis on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and rescue. The NPS river ranger patrol boat carries an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) in addition to other medical supplies. They are available to provide both routine and emergency boater services as they arise. Additionally, river patrol rangers continue to work with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the WV Division of Natural Resources, railroad partners, aeromedical helicopter services, local ambulance providers, local fire departments, commercial rafting companies, landowners, and others to pre-plan and prepare for boater safety.
Park Rangers and local emergency personnel may request a reduction of the scheduled water release from Summersville Dam in the event of an emergency. To help prevent boaters from being surprised by the sudden and unexpected drop in water level, NPS rangers continue to implement a sign and signal flag program to provide visual aids along the river in the event of an emergency. The press release will be posted on the American Whitewater and Gauley River NRA website.
The Gauley River NRA has large parcels of privately-owned land within its boundaries. Boaters and other recreation area visitors are reminded to be aware of and respect the rights of private landowners. The gated road to Sweet's Falls upstream of Masons Branch on river right is private property with no vehicle or pedestrian access. Trespassers are subject to fines and/or arrest by local law enforcement.
Land acquisition continues within the NRA. Private land purchased by the NPS and brought into the public domain protects the view shed from the river; allows the NPS to build and maintain campgrounds, parking lots, access roads, and boat launches; and protects the Gauley's natural and pristine characteristics. As a recent example, the NPS was pleased to announce the acquisition of nearly 100 acres of land from a private landowner in March of this year. This new tract of public land protects the viewshed from the main boat launch at the Tailwaters and provides the NPS a contiguous land base for creating more public recreation opportunities.
As our Gauley season planning efforts progress, we will post information on our web page at www.nps.gov/gari as well as continuing to communicate with private boaters through partnering organizations such as American Whitewater. For this season as in the past, we appreciate all of the private boater cooperation that helps to make the Gauley boating season safe, exciting, and memorable for everyone.
R. Duane Michael, Chief Ranger
New River Gorge National River
Gauley River National Recreation Area
Bluestone National Scenic River
The Park Service also shared information regarding their flow alert program here.