NPS Outlines Gauley River Access for 2009
September 2, 2009
An Open Letter to Gauley River Boaters
The National Park Service (NPS) looks forward to another great Gauley boating season beginning in a few weeks. The park continues to develop and improve the river access points at Mason’s Branch and Wood’s Ferry for all river users. The management and use of these two launches went well last year and, for the first time in Gauley River National Recreation Area history, boaters enjoyed public put-ins and take- outs at both spots. Many thanks go to the Gauley boating public for your cooperation in making last year a success. With that said, we are eager to build on that success in a continuing effort at developing quality public facilities.
The Wood’s Ferry access will be managed much like last year. The site is located on river right and off of Panther Mountain Road approximately 4.7 miles west of Route 129 and 1.1 miles west of Mason’s Branch. By river, the Wood’s Ferry access is approximately 2.75 miles downstream from Masons Branch. The access has a medium size parking lot at river level that will be designated for private boater vehicles. The parking area is a short walk, approximately 100 yards, from the boat ramp. At the river’s edge, the park maintains two ramps to the river, one for private boaters and one for commercial boaters. Like last year, next to the private boater ramp, we will designate a vehicle loading and unloading area. Private boaters will be able to drive up to the ramp to drop off boats and equipment. The commercial boat ramp is just upstream, approximately 25 yards, so private and commercial vehicle traffic will be on the same road and will share the same turn-around. There are the same numbers of parking spaces as last year. We ask for continued boater cooperation to park vehicles close together to maximize the available space for other vehicles. As a new improvement at Wood’s Ferry from last year, boaters will see the addition of two permanent restroom facilities that are being constructed by the NPS. Recent vandalism to the construction project may prevent completion by the start of Gauley season. The park will provide portable toilets near the boat ramps and the parking area.
At Mason’s Branch, like last year, the small footprint of the site continues to dictate its management. Due to the limited amount of land available at this access and the narrowness of the road we plan to restrict private vehicle access at Mason’s Branch on weekends. However, in an attempt at providing more access to the launch by private boaters, we will try to allow limited parking for the day down at the bottom in the upper parking lot on Fridays and Mondays. To help with parking, American Whitewater has leased the Legg field above Masons Branch as in the past. The Legg field will be available throughout the Gauley season for private boater parking on weekends and when the limited parking spaces at Mason’s Branch are full.
The road going in to Mason’s Branch and the road shoulders are very narrow. The attempt at allowing parking for the day at Mason’s Branch is on a trial basis. If there are accidents on the road or traffic conflicts, modifications to the plan may be required. The park asks for patience and cooperation from Gauley boaters as we strive to strike the balance between public access and the carrying capacity of the small site. Our park maintenance crew has been working to improve the road to Mason’s Branch. They will be trimming back vegetation from the road shoulders and repairing the potholes.
As our 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 and the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. This will be our second year managing these two accesses on the Gauley River. We expect there will continue to be some growing pains and they should be viewed as works in progress. However, with the cooperation of the boating community, we anticipate this year’s Gauley season will, again, be very successful.
Gary Hartley, Chief Ranger
New River Gorge National River
Gauley River National Recreation Area
Bluestone National Scenic River
American Whitewater would like to thank Gary, and all the Park Service staff, for working with
the private boater community to establish an outstanding private-public partnership for the
management of this remarkable river. See everyone at Gauley Fest.