New - 14. New River Gorge: Cunard to Fayette Station

New, West Virginia, US


14. New River Gorge: Cunard to Fayette Station

Usual Difficulty III-IV(V) (for normal flows)
Length 6.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 20 fpm
Max Gradient 27 fpm

Scenic Gorge Photo - shot from Beauty Mountain

Scenic Gorge Photo - shot from Beauty Mountain
Photo by John Petretich taken 09/15/04 @ 15000 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
New at Fayette Station
virtual-6362 -2.00 - 7.50 ft III-IV(V) 01h06m 4.8628 ft (running)

River Description

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

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-09-28 11:12:38


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Cunard PutinN/APutin Photo
0.5Upper RailroadIIIPhoto
1.0Lower RailroadIIIHazard Photo
2.0Ender WavesIIIPlayspot Photo
2.3Third Warm-UpII
2.5Fourth Warm-UpII+Photo
3.0Upper KeeneyIIIPhoto
3.1Middle KeeneyIVPortage Hazard Playspot Photo
3.2Lower KeeneyIVPhoto
3.3Halls of KarmaII
3.8Duddley's DipIIIPhoto
4.0Double ZIV+Photo Video
5.0Hook 99III
5.1Harmon's HoleIIIPhoto
5.2Greyhound Bus StopperIVHazard Photo
5.5Upper KaymoorIII+Photo
5.6Lower KaymoorIII+Photo
6.0Miller's FollyIVPhoto
6.3Thread the NeedleIII
6.5Fayette StationIVTakeout Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Cunard Putin (Class N/A)

Cunard Put-In

Cunard Put-In
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

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!

Pinball (Class III, Mile 0.3)


Photo of Bob Nasdor by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

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.

Upper Railroad (Class III, Mile 0.5)

Surfing upper railroad

Surfing upper railroad
Photo of Pat Hannen by Tom Cunningham taken 07/23/05 @ 2.7

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.

Lower Railroad (Class III, Mile 1.0)

Lower Railroad - Chad Foreman

Lower Railroad - Chad Foreman
Photo of Chad Foreman by John Petretich taken 02/15/05 @ 11000 cfs

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.

Swimmers (Class II, Mile 1.5)


Photo of Dave Steindorf by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

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.

Strippers (Class III, Mile 1.8)

Stripper Hole

Stripper Hole
Photo of Dave Steindorf and Kevin Colburn by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

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.

Ender Waves (Class III, Mile 2.0)

same but hopefully smaller

same but hopefully smaller
Photo of cr by will duckett

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.

Fourth Warm-Up (Class II+, Mile 2.5)

Fourth Warm-Up

Fourth Warm-Up
Photo of Chris Menges by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

Upper Keeney (Class III, Mile 3.0)

Upper Keeney

Upper Keeney
Photo of Chris Menges by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

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.

Middle Keeney (Class IV, Mile 3.1)

Upper, Middle & Lower Keeney (aerial photo)

Upper, Middle & Lower Keeney (aerial photo)
Photo by John Petretich taken 09/15/04 @ 15000 cfs

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!

Lower Keeney (Class IV, Mile 3.2)

Lower Keeney

Lower Keeney
Photo of One of the Keeney's by Brian Mattingly taken 10/15/03 @ 4 ft

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 (Class II, Mile 3.3)

Halls of Karma is great mystery move spot for squirt boaters located at the bottom of Lower Keeney Rapid on river left.

Lollygag (Class II+, Mile 3.3)

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.

Duddley's Dip (Class III, Mile 3.8)

Dudley's Dip

Dudley's Dip
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

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.

Double Z (Class IV+, Mile 4.0)
Click Here For Video

bernies left line at double z

bernies left line at double z
Photo of bernie by troy fultz taken 9/04

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!

Harmon's Hole (Class III, Mile 5.1)

Harmon's Hole

Harmon's Hole
Photo of Bob Nasdor and Chris Menges by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

Greyhound Bus Stopper (Class IV, Mile 5.2)

Greyhound Bus Stopper

Greyhound Bus Stopper
Photo by Karl Whipp

Upper Kaymoor (Class III+, Mile 5.5)

Upper Kaymoor

Upper Kaymoor
Photo of Dave Steindorf by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

Lower Kaymoor (Class III+, Mile 5.6)

Lower Kaymoor (aerial photo)

Lower Kaymoor (aerial photo)
Photo by John Petretich taken 09/15/04 @ 15000 cfs

Miller's Folly (Class IV, Mile 6.0)

Miller's Folly

Miller's Folly
Photo of Chris Menges by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 09/22/13 @ 2.90 ft

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.

Fayette Station (Class IV, Mile 6.5)

Fayette Station

Fayette Station
Photo by Jared Ebelhar taken 09/04/03

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.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 5 2013 (1987 days ago)
JayYoung (155294)
The Thurmond Gauge is back up and running, though possible only until October sometime. Stay tuned.
April 3 2013 (2079 days ago)
Charles and Nancy BrabecDetails
The USGS has discontinued their gauge at Thurmond on the New River. The US Army Corps of Engineers
is still reporting the flow and level for Thurmond on their web page at

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