Difficulty III-IV(V)
Length 6 Miles
Flow Range 4.75 - 18.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 16 minutes ago 5.55 [FT] 👍 ℹ️ ⚠️
Next Release
Reach Info Last Updated 02/04/2020 4:15 pm

River Description

The New River Dries is renown for its world class wave surfing when high inflows overwhelm Hawks Nest Dam and water spills into the Dries. American Whitewater negotiated seven summer releases were initiated in 2019 at the natural base flow of 2,200 to 2,500 cfs. At these flows the river is technical Class III+ with some largely out-of-play undercuts to avoid. At all flows the river offers paddlers some good surfing, fun moves, gorgeous scenery, and an easy quick shuttle. At summer release levels expect a river more like the Lower Yough than the Upper Gauley, and at high flows expect the opposite.  

American Whitewater negotiated scheduled releases on the New River Dries, two in March and 7 in late June through August, and the relatively low flow of 2200-2500 cfs. These releases will not occur if flows are above or below certain flow thresholds. Releases will be provided if inflows to the dam are between 3,800cfs and 12,500cfs. At flows under 3,800 there is insufficient flow to provide releases, and above 12,500 the dam is spilling and releases are moot. The USGS gage at Thurmond is the best predictor, but more information on releases is available at https://www.safewaters.com/facility/54

At release levels you can expect technical moves, and many choices of different slots, generally with lots of eddies and time to make your moves. Note that some slots appear obviously sieved and some rocks are obviously undercut, though there are clear routes through each rapid. If you hike up and put in at the dam you'll get a nice challenging rapid immediately below the dam, a small ledge drop, and some good surfing before arriving at Cotton Hill Bridge. Immediately below the bridge is a fun rapid ending in a good surf wave that has tricky but doable eddy access. Some easy rapids lead a convoluted section of tightly-spaced boulder strewn rapids that at high flows is one rapid called Mile-Long, then a break in the action, then another series of technical rapids including Landslide before reaching the powerhouse and the reservoir. 

At high flows the Dries is a surfers paradise although at high water levels you will have to catch some of the waves on the fly. About 2/3 of the way down the river you will find a long class III+ rapid that ends in a big pool. At the bottom of the pool are several huge boulders. This is Landslide rapid. There are 5-6 slots between the boulders. The cleanest slots are the 2nd and 3rd from the right. The leftmost slots have a potential for pinning and should be avoided. You can check the Hawks Nest gage for realtime flow in the Dries, and use the photos of the conversion tables to calculate instream flow. Alternately you can look at the Thurmond gage and know that the dam diverts as much water as possible up to 10,000 cfs and any additional flows spill into the Dries.  

Putin: Park at the Cotton Hill bridge on Rt. 16, and either hike up to the base of the dam, or put in near Cotton Hill Bridge.  An additional put in is being build just downstream of Cotton Hill Bridge that will open in 2020 or 2021.

Takeout: Brookfield built a new public takeout at the upstream end of the campground on the reservoir just upstream of the town of Gauley Bridge. It will be ready for the 2020 season.  You can also ask to park at the campground in exchange for a small donation to the local animal shelter, which has a nice boat ramp and is very convenient.  There are other spots to park along Rts. 16 & 60 above Gauley Bridge, including by the bigs rocks just below the railroad bridge and a bit upstream and across the road by a nice waterfall if you are willing to hike your kayak up to the road.

Rapid Descriptions

Foot of the Dam (No Name)

Class - III+ Mile - 0.1
One of the more powerful rapids at release levels, this one offers a number of routes and moves. 

Ledge Drop (No Name)

Class - III Mile - 0.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A clean ledge drop run down a tongue on the left at release levels.

Cotton Hill Put In

Class - N/A Mile - 1.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This is the "normal" put in for those not wanting to hike up the road to the base of the dam. 

Put In Waves aka Cotton Hill Bridge Rapid

Class - IV Mile - 1.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Non existent at low water, Class 5 at huge flows.

Big Kahuna Waves

Class - III+ Mile - 1.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A series of 3 to 5 big wide waves depending on water level (high). Epic playspot at high water. There is also a nice surfwave in this vicinity at low water, right below the Cotton Hill put-in. 

Mile Long

Class - IV Mile - 2.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Big long rapid with a really big hole at the bottom at high water. At release levels (2200) Mile Long is actually a series of around a half-dozen technical rapids.


Class - IV Mile - 3.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Avoid the river left channel, it houses a keeper hole.

Train Wreck

Class - III Mile - 5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The rapid under the railroad trestle.


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Nick Prete
1 year ago

FYI gauge is wrong for rafts, 10' is small, 12' is medium, 14'+ is getting burly.

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Anthony Daniel
3 years ago

low flow dries gauge info 5 ft is a good level for a low flow run, 4 ft is too low- it requires walking or wading your boat in a couple of places low flow runs are considered class III with class IV consequences because some of the slots are blind and some undercuts are in play.

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Paul Lange
3 years ago

We paddled the Dries last weekend at lower flows. The approach to Landslide rapid has changed some with some shoals appearing on the river right above the slots river left. Beware of the wood and some shifting of rocks in the three far left slots.

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Paul Lange
5 years ago

FYI, the gauge reading here on AW is incorrect. A 3.85 level means there is no water in the dries and should be considered paddling zero. Anything above that indicates there is water flowing in the dries.

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11 years ago

Just to let everyone know when the dries are 9 ft there is a hole on river left below the put in that is loopable and can def throw ends. Little sticky but hey thats half the fun.

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16 years ago

Well, once again, Almost Heaven "Wet Virginia" was the place to be this past weekend, as myself and the usual suspects had an awesome time surfing the New River Dries.

I love living 10 mins away from the dries ....and the parking lot at the waves has a feeling about it....sort of what I imagine the parking lot for "pipeline" is to surfers. Everyone is just so amped to be paddling the best whitewater in the US, and we love sharing it with each other. So much so that, Scott Lindgren and Tanya Shuman flew in from Cali when they heard the waves would be in for a few days. So, myself, Clay Wright, Shane Groves, Bryan Kirk, Jimmy Blakeney, Chris Gratgmans, Little Dave, BJ & Katie Johnson, Tanya Shuman, Anna Levesque, and a few others had a great time surfin it up, and shooting some film....
The usual waves that show up on river right at about 40-55,000 cfs were the bomb as usual, but we were also able to surf a huge, building and crashing 15-20' 'er in the middle of the river. This thing was abso-friggin-lutely HUGE, and so were some of the moves being thrown. Big pan-ams, flipturns and helixes were the main course on the endless freestyle menu, and lots of footy was shot. Look for updates soon on www.prokayaker.tv (Jimmy Blakeney's site) as well for some of the best shots on Scott Lindgren's new flick "Burning Time".
If you haven't had the chance to surf some huge waves, the dries is where it's at. Look for levels for the New at Thurmond to be 28,000 cfs-38,000 cfs for the wide middle wave, 40,000-60,000 for the waves on river right.
Also, the Bigwheel was incredible! So smooth, and FAST! Definatly my favorite boat, and Shane has already been making it better from what I hear!
It's late, and I'm goin surfin in the AM, so until the next report.....

Brian J

Release Schedule

More Information

We have had releases on this reach but don't show any currently. This information is gathered by the public. If you know about releases then contact us about them. If you would volunteer to enter the releases, then reach out to us.

Gage Descriptions

The above gauge is the converted gauge for Fayette Station. The base for the conversion is Thurmond which is several miles upstream of the Dries.

Another way to guesstimate the level is to take the flow at Kanawha Falls and subtract the level at Gauley above Belva. Then subtract the maximum amount diverted by Hawk's Nest Dam (10,000 cfs). Be aware that sometimes the dam does not divert the maximum amount.

The minimum flow for the Dries is about 1,000 cfs. The maximum is dependent on your skill level. As the flow approaches and goes above 5,000 cfs big holes develop and the run becomes much more difficult.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2009-09-28 Medium Near Miss/Rescue Other Read More




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New River Dries to Flow Free This Fall (WV)

Kevin Colburn

The owners of Hawks Nest Dam on the New River Dries is undertaking a thorough inspection of the Hawks Nest Tunnel this fall, something that has not been done since completion of the tunnel over 85 years ago. This work, slated to begin on September 8, 2020 and last for 60 days, will require drawing down the reservoir 20+ feet and will result in 2 months of natural flows in the New River Dries. The drawdown may also expose seldom-seen rapids on the New River beneath the Hawks Nest Reservoir. Enjoy this special fall Dries season!

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2020 New River Dries Releases Scheduled (WV)

Kevin Colburn

Last week, American Whitewater took part in the annual scheduling meeting for the New River Dries releases. Each year these releases will follow the same pattern: a weekend in mid-March, and then 3.5 consecutive weekends starting with the last weekend in June. For 2020, this means the releases are on March 21 & 22, June 27 & 28, and July 4, 5, 11, 12, and 18. Inflows have to be in a very specific range for a release to occur or it will be rescheduled, so double check the gages and the power company website before heading to the river.

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First New River Dries Release Rescheduled

Kevin Colburn

The New River Dries was scheduled to have its first planned releases ever this weekend, however inflows will be exceeding the capacity of the hydropower diversion and the Dries will be running around 5,000 cfs without a release. There are worse problems to have! This means that this weekend's 2200-2500 cfs releases will be rescheduled for next weekend, which looks promising for the releases to occur with good water levels and weather, and if needed one more weekend, after which they will be cancelled if they have not occured. 

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Dates Scheduled for First New River Dries Releases (WV)

Kevin Colburn

Last week, the first ever pulse flow releases were scheduled on the New River Dries, located near Gauley Bridge, WV. These releases were designed to support intermediate level whitewater paddling and to restore natural flow variability to a river reach that has been largely dewatered by the Hawks Nest Hydropower Project for generations. The releases are a requirement of the new 47-year federal dam license issued in late 2017. The releases will occur in March, June, July, and possibly August of this and future years. American Whitewater played a lead role in negotiating these releases.

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Decision Reached on Restoration of the New River Dries! (WV)

Kevin Colburn

River enthusiasts will soon have new paddling opportunities on West Virginia's New River. Federal regulators issued a new 47-year license for the dam that dewaters the spectacular 5.5-mile New River Dries in the final days of 2017. The license requires significant new recreational and environmental enhancements in a river reach that has suffered from water withdrawals for well over half a century. American Whitewater played an active and leading role in securing these outcomes.

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AW Secures Improved State Permit for New River Dries, Now Up to Feds (WV)

Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater reached an important milestone this week in our efforts to restore flows and public access to the New River Dries. Earlier this summer American Whitewater appealed a State decision to provide only 3-4 paddling releases annually, and vehicular access that required a 1.2-mile hike to the put in at the dam. On Tuesday the State issued an improved decision following over a month of negotiations, and in exchange American Whitewater withdrew our appeal. The New River Dries is a big, beautiful, ancient river with vast recreational potential, and its fate is now in the hands of federal regulators at FERC.

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AW Appeals New River Dries Flow and Access Prescriptions

Kevin Colburn

On Friday American Whitewater filed an appeal of the State of West Virginia’s flow and access prescriptions for the spectacular New River Dries. The State’s prescriptions would only restore an average of 3 or 4 days of flows sufficient for paddling as mitigation for the over 240 days lost to hydropower operations. In addition the state would require access 1.2 miles into the 5.4-mile run, foreclosing vehicle-based access on 22% of the run. The prescriptions will last for 30 to 50 years unless our appeal is successful.

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Agencies Consider New River Dries & AW Proposal (WV)

Kevin Colburn

Federal decision makers are accepting comments on their plans for the New River Dries until January 8th. American Whitewater has proposed a schedule of 41 annual releases that will be great for the river, paddlers, and other stakeholders. Individuals are encouraged to comment, as are clubs and businesses. 

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AW Seeks Flow Restoration on the New River Dries (WV)

Kevin Colburn

Immediately downstream of the New River Gorge, a beautiful 5.5-mile section of the New River has been dewatered for generations. Paddlers call this reach the New River Dries, and know it for the huge surf waves that form at high water. The Hawks Nest hydroelectric project removes 10,000cfs from the Dries, leaving only 100cfs except when high flows overwhelm the dam. The relicensing of the dam offers a once-in a lifetime opportunity to restore flows to the New River. American Whitewater filed comments today with federal regulators outlining our vision.

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Help Restore the New River Dries Today (WV)

Kevin Colburn

If you would like to see flows restored to the New River Dries, now is a very important time for you to let federal regulators (FERC) know your thoughts.  The power company has proposed zero releases, and no vehicular access to the top of the run in their Draft License Application.  American Whitewater is asking for releases and access, but it is important for individual paddlers to make their voices heard too.  Send your comments in no later than 10/31/15. 

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Dam Owner Offers No Releases on New River Dries

Kevin Colburn

Yesterday, the power company that de-waters the New River Dries with the Hawks Nest Dam proposed zero dam releases to mitigate their impacts on whitewater recreation and naturally variable flow patterns.  American Whitewater will be offering a balanced response to this extreme proposal that outlines the value and potential for restoring significant recreational and ecological values to the New River.  

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New River Dries Flow Study - Participate Online

Kevin Colburn

Paddlers that run the New River Dries (WV) between now and July 31, 2014 are encouraged to fill out a flow study survey after each day on the water.  Submitting surveys will add important data to the Extended Whitewater Evaluation Study and will greatly help American Whitewater and others negotiate improved flows for the New River Dries.    

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New River Flow Study Delayed 1 Week (WV)

Kevin Colburn

The first of a series of flow study dates have been rescheduled for 28 and 29, 2013 due to excessive flows predicted this week.  The study aims to assess the recreational flow needs for whitewater paddling on the New River Dries in West Virginia.  This flow study was requested by American Whitewater and other stakeholders, as part of the relicensing of the Hawks Nest Hydroelectric Project.  Paddlers with suitable skills are encouraged to sign up to participate.

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AW Requests Study of New River Dries (WV)

Kevin Colburn

On Friday, American Whitewater formally requested several studies as part of the relicensing of the Hawks Nest Dam, which significantly de-waters the New River Dries in West Virginia.  In addition to our study requests, we offered evidence of the hydropower project's significant effects on whitewater recreation.

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Cheat Canyon Settlement Reached; Land Set Aside for Endangered Species

Charles Walbridge

After two years of intense negotiations an agreement reached to protect endangered species in the Cheat River Canyon. Allegheny Wood Products acquired roughly 5,000 acres in the Cheat Canyon below Albright, WV in 2003 for $9.75 million. When they began building roads and cutting trees the following year the government took no steps to enforce the Endangered Species Act. A lawsuit was filed in 2005 by Friends of Blackwater Canyon, the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Cheat Lake Environmental and Recreational Association. Although American Whitewater was not a party to the litigation we are gratified that an agreement was reached and commend both parties for their efforts.

Kevin Colburn


Tony Allred Jr


Charles and Nancy Brabec


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1214276 02/04/20 Kevin Colburn updated description
1212279 05/09/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1212999 06/24/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213000 06/24/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213050 06/26/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213049 06/26/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213134 07/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1195154 07/13/18 Tony Allred Jr 7-10-2018 - cleanup
1211445 03/14/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1211446 03/14/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1211839 04/03/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1211576 04/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1210081 07/13/18 Tony Allred Jr 7-10-2018 - cleanup
1211404 03/12/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1211447 03/14/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1211569 04/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1211946 04/18/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1213136 07/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213138 07/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213139 07/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213137 07/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213135 07/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213141 07/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213140 07/01/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1192213 10/23/04 Charles and Nancy Brabec n/a