The Cherry is an excellent novice/intermediate run with many places to practice basic paddling skills (eddy turns, peel outs, ferries, surfing, etc.). Routes 39 runs along the river for the first 3 miles from Richwood Inn to Fenwick. Then Routes 20/55 follow the river down to the confluence with the Gauley. This allows the paddler to choose to run 3, 6, or all 9 miles.
The gradient is fairly constant at about 30 feet/mile, making this almost continuous rock gardens. The rapid just upstream of the Fenwick Bridge signals the point where Laurel Creek adds its volume to what has been coming down the Cherry. Watch out for the hole in the center of this rapid, especially at high water. About two miles downriver from Fenwick the river curves to the right and a long rapid appears. The bottom of this rapid includes a slide into a wave train with a couple of good size waves. The river left eddy at the bottom of the slide provides an easy way to get onto the waves. The second wave has a little curler on the river right side that can flip the unwary paddler.
About 3/4 mile below the Holcomb bridge (where Route 20/55 crosses the Cherry) is series of rapids ending with the last major rapid before Rhododendron Park. At high water the unsuspecting paddler can encounter a couple of good sized holes at the bottom/center of this rapid.
The action continues below the park and all the way to the takeout. Hopefully you still have enough energy to enjoy these last 3 miles.
Putin: River right across from the Richwood Inn
Takeout: Curtin Bridge (Route 20) at the confluence of the Cherry and Gauley Rivers
Alternate putin/takeout points: Fenwick (3 miles) and Rhododendron Park on Rt. 20/55 (6 miles)
Great river, ran it at 12' today (roughly zero on Fenwick gauge) with beginners in kayaks, perfect class 2-3. I'll be back but will hope for more water next time. Didn't look like enough water at "Richwood Inn" (old condemned building on river left?) so we drove down to the next bridge in Fenwick, put in river right next to post office. Have fun!
The two trees at the bottom of "the islands" (about 1.3 miles above the confluence of the Cherry and Gauley) were partially removed on August 21st. It is still a good idea to scout the area from the pull-out along Route 20 when running your shuttle. See the photos section for before and after photos (taken when the USGS gauge
was about 50 cfs).
We paddled this section on 9/7/11 and the trees were easily avoidable. The level
was 1 foot on the paddlers gauge at Fenwick.
Three of us paddled this section at 12 ft from the Holcomb bridge to the Gauley. This was a fun section of almost continuous class II/II+ rapids. Great section of river for practicing river running skills and there were numerous small waves and holes for surfing. Fun section for the intermediate paddler, a challenging section novice.
The Craigsville gauge can be used as a general reference. This gauge is on the Gauley, just below the confluence of the Cherry and Gauley. The Cranberry and Williams join the Gauley further upstream, so the gauge is actually measuring what is coming from the Gauley headwaters plus the Williams, Cranberry and Cherry.
The Paddlers gauge on the old bridge abutment at Fenwick gives a more accurate reading. Recommended levels based on the paddlers gauge are 5" to 6'.
The Craigsville gauge conversion table for feet-to-cfs is approximately:
11 feet = 759 cfs
12 feet = 2135 cfs
13 feet = 4135 cfs
14 feet = 6580 cfs
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Ender at Riley's
Surfin' the Cherry
Attempt at a KickFlip
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Get your groove on baby! This year Gauley Fest is a 60’s themed event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. To memorialize that historic event we are flashing back to another era for a 60’s throwdown. Started in 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a hydro-electric project that would have disrupted the flows on the Gauley River, Gauley Fest has grown to become the largest paddling festival in the world.
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. Enjoy your paddling season on this classic whitewater river. As in past years, American Whitewater has leased the field above Masons Branch, also known as the Legg field, for overflow parking.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!