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New Public Access for Gauley River

Posted: 05/15/2008
by Mark Singleton

The National Park Service is purchasing property from two West Virginia landowners to improve public access to the Gauley River.  The sites, located at Woods Ferry and Mason Branch, are established put-in and take-out sites for boaters, kayakers, canoeists and rafters along the river between the public put-in at the Summersville Dam and the take-out at Swiss, almost 26 miles downstream.

The National Park Service purchase from Lost Paddle Inc. and Janet and Imre Szilagyi will place the property under the management team of the New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Recreation Area and the Bluestone National Scenic River.

“Providing public access to the Gauley in this area is what I envisioned when sponsoring the federal legislation which established the national recreation area back in 1988,” said U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-WV).  “This agreement will enhance tourism and the local economy by making the river more accessible to the general public.”

“This acquisition is critical for the park service to perpetuate public access to important put-in and take-out sites on the Gauley River National Recreation Area,” said Park Superintendent Don Striker.  “While much of the public has been ably served by the commercial raft companies with river access, the National Park Service can now ensure access for a variety of recreational users, including commercial rafting companies and private boaters who own their rafts, kayaks and canoes as well as fishermen, hikers and others who want to experience this fabulous natural resource.”

The appraisal and sale were coordinated through The Nature Conservancy, a leading conservation organization that works to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.  The Nature Conservancy considers the Gauley River and its gorge to be one of the natural jewels of the Central Appalachians.  The forests, streams and river shores support a diverse wealth of plants and animals, including a federally endangered shrub called Virginia spiraea.

“Our role in conserving this beautiful land was to commission a critical independent appraisal to help bridge negotiations in a reasonable manner,” said Rodney Bartgis, the group’s West Virginia state director.  “The landowners and Park Service were willingly talking to one another, but both needed more information to assure their interests were met.”

 

Property locations: The properties are located in Nicholas County on the right-hand, or north, descending shoreline of the Gauley River and are accessible from Panther Mountain Road (County Road 22).

  • Woods Ferry is a 177-acre tract includes gravel access to the put-in site at the river and is about 11.5 miles downstream from the Summersville Dam.
  • Mason Branch is a 3-acre tract that includes a paved roadway and take-out site at the river about 9.5 miles from the dam.

 

Owners:  Lost Paddle Inc. and Imre and Janet Szilagyi have owned these parcels of land for more than 20 years and purchased them from Mower Lumber Company.   The landowners have invested more than $400,000 in the last 15 years to build and maintain the road access and manage the rest of the property as well.
 
Property sale:  The appraisal and sale of the property was facilitated by an independent appraiser through The Nature Conservancy.  The appraisal and subsequent sale were based on the value of the property and its commercial potential as a river access site. 
 
American Whitewater will be working closely with the Park Service to develop a private boater access plan that includes the Masons Branch parking field at the top of the hill that was not part of this land transfer. Since the mid 90's AW has leased this field from the local land owner to provide parking for those using the Masons Branch area.

American Whitewater
Mark Singleton
PO Box 1540
Cullowhee, NC 28723
Phone: 828-586-1930
Fax: 828-586-2840



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Gauley River (WV)
For many years AW has worked on the protection of this river and advocated for public access.

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