Some descriptions list a section from Thurmond to Fayette Station which is 14 miles long. Most paddlers shorten the trip by running the 6.5 mile section from Cunard to Fayette Station as we have listed here. This section contains all of the rapids except for one called Surprise. Using the put in at Cunard takes out all of the long pools of the upper sectoin. Plus, as a bonus the Park Service has built the best bathrooms I have ever seen at a National Park, great for those first-timer jitters! For more information on the upper section see the Thurmond to Cunard page.
This is a high-volume, powerful river and can be run over a wide range of river levels. Most agree that the optimal level is 2 feet on the Fayette Station gauge, so all of the descriptions of the rapids are at that level. At this level the Keeneys, Double Z, and Fayette Station are really stompin'. At lower flows things get smaller (as you would expect). At higher flows the smaller features disappear and (in my opinion) things get easier! You have HUGE holes, but you have plenty of time to make your move around them. Above 10 ft there are no real eddies and the river is very wide, which can spell disaster for swimmers. If you do not have big water paddling skills then stay off above 6 feet. At 12ft the Park Service cutoffs put-ins for commercial rafting trips.
There is a very nice map from Keelhauler Canoe Club.
The National Park Service has a couple of fine write-ups: New River Gorge National River
and NPS Guide to paddling the New River-Hinton to Thurmond
FYI: According to the people who know such things, the New River is the second oldest river in the world:
West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey: Geology of the New River Gorge
A Masters Thesis by Dawn Anne Moore: THE ORIGINS OF RAPIDS IN THE LOWER NEW RIVER GORGE, WEST VIRGINIA
The Park Service has done alot of work on the road down to the put-in. Even so, it is steep, made of gravel, and at one point a one-way. It can get very exciting on a busy summer weekend when everyone is fighting to get down or up, especially with the buses for commercial raft trips. Once at the bottom of the hill make a right. The commercial parking is straight ahead and the private parking is around to the left. There is not alot of parking but you can park along side the road that leads to the fishing parking lot. Do not block the road!
After the brief pool from the Cunard put-in, this is the first small rapid. Run straight down the middle for a perfect wave train. The waves are generally equal sized and spaced, allowing for a long set of wavewheels. Above 5' there is a hole that forms on the left side that is not suitable for surfing.
FYI: The old stone bridge on the right that you see across the river as you enter this rapid is where Manns Creek dumps into the New.
After Pinball, the flow takes you toward river-right. In the pool here you are above a very large hole known as "the Cunard Stripper". At 2' it is not very surffable. You have two choices: (1) run to right of the large rock sticking out of the river with alot of left hand angle, which will take you very close to the meat, or (2) run to the left of the rock and miss the hole. As you get nearer to the train trestle, head to the left to set up for a nice wave train. You are now in the large pool above Lower Railroad.
From pool at the top you cannot see the features of this drop, so you may wish to get out to scout (either left or right). Start you run left of center and drive to the right to miss a hole on the left. At flows from 4.5 to 5.5 feet, start on the right hand bank to miss the top pourover and catch the large hole near the bottom. This is the best hole on the river with great eddy service. One can spend all day here surfing. Must not be missed!
There have been a couple of fatalities in the rapid. At -2 feet there is a very undercut rock 50 feet off the left bank.
FYI: The pool above the rapid is the deepest on the river. Folklore says there is a train deep in the water from an early 1900's accident.
After a short pool you will see this small rapid. During the summer it will be marked by all of the rafters stopping to swim it (hence the name). The best thing about this one is the Toilet Bowl. Start on the left side. As you float down you will see a curler/tube. You can tuck up and it will flush you down, or it is a good place to launch a kick flip. There is a small wave-train runout.
This next rapid is marked by a rock jumble off the right bank. As with most rapids on this river, there are a couple of ways to run this drop. For the sneak route, stay in the middle of the main flow but keep an eye out for Strippers Hole -- it is deep and unkind! Stay in the flow and you should just pass it on the left. For the creek route, head to the river-right bank, boof between the two boulders at the top, turn and ferry behind the large pourover, then peel-out above Strippers Hole and get in the main flow.
From the pool below Strippers, work your way to left of center for a playhole at the top of the next rapid. You may need to hang out here and wait for a break in the line of rafts. At 2 feet, once again you have two choices. The first is to float down and catch the wave on the fly. The second is to run Pig Farmers Falls. On the top left there will be two large boulders with water dropping between them. Paddle from right to left. Take a right boof stroke to launch over the hole below. The hole is backed up by a rock, so you really need to hit the boof and land in the eddy. After surfing, there is a HUGE eddy on the left. In the summer there will be a line of 20 or more paddlers waiting to surf. When you get tired of waiting, get in the main flow and catch the wave train down to the pool above Upper Keeney.
At flows above 4 feet, Pig Farmers becomes a large hole -- stay away!
FYI: While you are surfing the wave, you can NOT see up stream at the many rafts that WILL take your head off.
You'll know you are here when you see a large rock on the left that looks like a whale, aptly named Whale Rock. Some feel this rapid is best if you run Upper and Middle Keeney as one rapid. Get with the main flow going around the right side of Whale Rock and brace down through the waves. After passing Whale Rock turn up stream and get left of center to be set up for Middle Keeney.
At flows of 5 feet and above, the eddy line behind Whale Rock is nasty so it is best to swing wide of the eddy line -- a swim here will be long! At levels above 9 feet, Whale Rock becomes Whale Hole and there will be no choice but to run all three of the Keeneys together as one long rapid!
FYI: Keeneys Creek enters on the right.
Once you are set up after running Upper Keeney, head down left of center. After the second rolling wave you will drop into a LARGE breaking wave/hole. Your fate is likely to depend on where it is in its cycle. If it's a wave you should go through with no problem. If it's a hole, there is a 50/50 chance that it will flip you. If you do flip, just time your roll with the wave train below. If you make it upright, paddle through the maddness and eddy out in the large eddy on the right. More skilled and daring paddlers like to catch this wave hole and surf it, but beware, just like Ender, you cannot see upstream. The good news is most rafts take the center line so they are not a factor.
FYI: Many beginners walk this rapid only to run Lower Keeney. This rapid is not very hard but the out flow leads directly into the Meat Grinder in Lower Keeney. There was a fatality here in 2004. Swimmers need to swim hard to the eddy on the left. This eddy is huge and provides a nice place to rest and watch some carnage coming down the river. Great photo op!
This rapid can be a bit difficult to scout, but it can be done. The best line is to stay in the flow that is going down the left hand side. Stay in the middle of that flow and float along with right-hand boat angle. As soon as you can see down the rapid you will see a large curler wave that breaks to the left. You do NOT want this wave to take you that direction, as it takes you to a large rock called Washup Rock and a seive called The Juicer -- a bad place to be! Paddle hard to the right and punch the breaking wave, then ride the rollercoaster to the bottom. Catch the large eddy on the right to set up for surfing at Lollygag!
Halls of Karma is great mystery move spot for squirt boaters located at the bottom of Lower Keeney Rapid on river left.
Just after the wave train after Lower Keeney there will be 2 holes, one on each side of the river. The river left hole is not good surfing. The river right hole can produce dynamic, but enjoyable surfs! If you don't want to surf, follow the large tongue between the holes.
This rapid is marked by a large rock that looks like an upside down canoe from up stream. The rock is undercut but easy to avoid. Start right of center and work left to set up for the "Dip", then stay to the right to clear it.
After Dudleys you will be in a huge slow-moving pool. Looking downstream, the right hand bank has a rock that looks like a pyramid. This tells you Double Z lies next downstream. This is the most technical rapid on the New, and one you must run, as there is no easy portage.
After floating (or practicing flat water tricks) through the pool you will see a rock that looks like a thumb sticking out of the water about 50 ft from the right bank. This is called "Thumb Rock".
Start your run just to the left of this rock. Go around the rock and head to the right bank to avoid a pourover. Once at the bank, ferry behind the hole to the middle of the river. Turn downstream and paddle HARD with right-hand boat angle to punch a large and powerful curling wave/hole. If you punch this you are home free. Paddle down through the confused water, making sure to stay away from the downsteam rocks; They are undercut, and you WILL go underneath them, boat and all. (Don't ask how I know!) This is the "Double Z" move.
If you did not punch the hole you have to roll quickly because you are headed for Table Rock which forms Chair Hole. Roll and head to the right bank.
FYI: Another name for this rapid is "Sunset". During the summer and fall months at sunset, the sun is perfectly framed in the mountains and river downstream. I recommend being here then to see it -- it is breath taking!
Get your first view (from the river) of New River Gorge Bridge, then be ready for Undercut Rock. The undercut is near top of rapid on the right bank.
Paddlers can avoid this rapid by taking out just upstream on the left. However you will miss the fun of running down the middle through large waves and holes.
I just lost my red Dagger Redline in the Meatgrinder by Lower Keeneys. Nasty pin, thank god I was well on my way to the shore when it happened! At the level today (4") there wasn't any way for me to get it out. If anyone sees it when the river gets to a lower level and it look extractable, can you please let me know so I can go and try to recover it. Or if you find it floating along somewhere please let me know as well. I never got around to putting my name in it and I think it may have the name of the previous owner. I already reported it to the park service so they know there's no one in danger at the scene. Thanks for any information!
The Thurmond Gauge is back up and running, though possible only until October sometime. Stay tuned.
Hi - I just kayaked this section with my 12 year old daughter and some friends. What a beautiful river! This was the first solid Class IV that she has paddled & she did great. It'd be great to find other kids her age that are kayaking this kind of stuff. I also have a 15yo daughter that is paddling Class IV as well. We're planning on trips for the Lower Gauley and the Cheat in the next couple months.
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5 years ago
by Charles and Nancy Brabec
Most paddlers go by the gauge at Fayette Station. Everything that references levels on this site will be according to the Fayette Station gauge in feet.
Some still go by the flow, so here is a link to the level at Thurmond in cfs.
Others may prefer using Chuck Brabec's conversion,
or NPS gauge conversion chart.
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.
Story Behind the Plaque
Fayette Station Rapid
New River Gorge Bridge
Trey Barrow below the Meat Grinder
Lower Keeney 3 ft
Mystery Move at Mellow Ledge
New River Gorge Superintendent Cal Hite
Roy Srymanske at the put in steps
surfing upper railroad
Surfing upper railroad
Don Humphrey meets Fayette Station
Sandman not scared
Greeting from West Virginia
NRG bridge from Diamond Point
view from Endless Wall (Diamond Point)
The Keeneys - shot from Beauty Mountain
Scenic Gorge Photo - shot from Beauty Mountain
Double Z @ 4.5' - shot from Beauty Mountain
Lower Kaymoor (aerial photo)
Upper, Middle & Lower Keeney (aerial photo)
Aerial Picture of Harmon's Falls ( aka Hook 99)
Double Z - Scenic Shot
Lower Railroad - Chad Foreman
Double Z - Peyton Love
Fayette Station Camp, 1973
Lower Keeney 1973
bernies left line at double z
New River Relief Map, designed for 11x17 printing
The old days at Fayette Station
same but hopefully smaller
Loop attempt at Ender Waves
Who's going first?
Lower Railroad Rodeo Hole - a couple of cliped rides
Double Z Bule Angel style
Damage at Wolf Creek
A bad place to be ...
Whale Hole #2
ender wave video
Crazy Rafter - MISSING!?
And he comes crashing back down
A Wave Comming?
And the excitement continues
Good to the last drop
Upper Railroad on the New
Double Z at the New River
Lower Railroad, New River
Greyhound Bus Stopper
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.
Earlier this month the National Park Service released their new draft management plan for the New River Gorge National River. The analysis accompanying the plan explores five alternatives representing different strategies that are all targeted at protecting the ecological, cultural, historical, and recreational values of the river corridor. The Park Service has selected their prefered alternative and has requested public comments on their draft plan and analysis between now and April 1, 2010.
The National Park Service (NPS) has scheduled three meetings in early March to gather comments on their alternative management scenarios for the New River Gorge National River. Meetings will be held in Hinton (3/9), Beckley (3/10), and at the New River Gorge (3/11). The NPS is considering several complex alternatives and paddlers are encouraged to attend these meetings to learn more and offer feedback.
Nancy Kell, a very experienced Mid-States kayaker, died on February 24th after flipping in a Class II rapid on West Virginia's Red Creek. There were a number of strainers in the vicinity above and below the water. One of them snagged her tow tether, pulled her out of her boat, and held her under water. She was with a very experienced crew but they could not reach her quickly enough. Equipment snags are a real risk. In the light of this accident I strongly urge anyone using a cowtail, pigtail, or tow tether to recheck your setup, and to consider whether wearing a tow tether makes sense. Be certain that your tether releases cleanly at both ends. Do not attach the front carabiner to a non-releasable point, like a pocket or strap. Ms. Kell did this, and it may have been a contributing factor. Apparently many current rescue PFD designs to not feature a front release point! Do not attach a tether to the rear of your PFD with a non-locking carabiner, as that may inadvertently clip into a rope. The tether should fit very snugly, without sagging, but as the photo shows Ms. Kell did that, and it did not protect her! The harness release should be quick and foolproof. Practice harness releases under pressure before using it on the river. Finally, remember that any additional strap is a potential snag hazard. Ask yourself if the usefulness of a tow tether is worth the risk, especially on small, strainer infrested creeks. Carry it in a PFD pocket or dry bag if necessary. Click for a link to the report in the AW Accident Database. (Jeff Macklin Photo)
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.
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flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!