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Difficulty III+(IV)
Length 5.5 Miles
Flow Range 500 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 31 minutes ago 2200 [CFS]
Next Release
Reach Info Last Updated 03/31/2012 1:53 am

River Description

This section is normally run from the takeout for the Upper Gauley down to the putin for the Lower Gauley (both on river right). You can also use the putin/takeout on river right at Woods Ferry if you want to "sample" just part of the Middle Gauley.

It is also possible to put in on river left just below Woods Ferry and take out on river left just below Junkyard. This way you still get the lower 2-3 miles of the Middle Gauley (including Ender Waves and Backender) as well as the first 3 rapids on the Lower Gauley (Koontz's Bend, Canyon Doors and Junkyard). Canyon Doors has some great surfing waves at about 1100-1300 cfs.

The Middle Gauley is a good place for aspiring Lower and Upper Gauley boaters to get their feet (and maybe their heads) wet. This section includes several class III/III+ rapids and a few that are even class IV. The more notable rapids are Wood's Ferry, Ender Waves (just below Wood's Ferry) and Backender. If you use the river left putin and takeout you will miss all of the major rapids above Ender Wave but you get to add Koontz Flume, Canyon Doors, and Junkyard. (See the photos section of the Lower Gauley for some nice photos of Koontz' Flume and Canyon Doors).

The Middle Gauley starts out with some nice  warm-up class II and some good surfing at "Perfect Wave". Right below is a ledge that is easiest to run far left with two good waves/holes just below the ledge. Further on down the river is "Fuzzy Box of Kittens", aka "Guides Revenge".  About 3 miles from the putin is Woods Ferry Rapid. It is a long boulder garden with an almost river-wide ledge about 10 yards from the end of the rapid. A long rock outcrop funnels  the water to the left into a narrow chute. The right side of the chute has an interesting feature called Julie's Juicer.

The last major rapid on the Middle Gauley is Backender. It is difficult to scout unless you like to climb over the large boulders on river right. You will know that you are approaching Backender when you see the huge rock spire on river right. The takeout is in the pool just above the rock spire.

Scheduled releases occur on weekends beginning the Friday following Labor Day and normally run for 6 consecutive weekends. See for the detailed schedule. However, the Middle Gauley is runnnable almost any time of the year - and it it much easier to access the river "off-season".

Click here for information about the Lower Gauley, and for the Upper Gauley.


Rapid Descriptions


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Anthony Daniel
2 months ago

i personally like the 850 to 1200 cfs level. At 600 cfs chainsaw rapid is a portage. Bucklick access requires a high clearance vehicle.

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 flow reported here is from the virtual gauge for the Gauley below the Meadow. This gauge is the sum of the current flow from Summersville Dam and the current flow from the Meadow River. It does not include the flow coming from any other creeks below Summersville Dam.

You can also view the USGS Gauge at Belva to get another view of the flow below the Lower Gauley.

Directions Description

River right putin: The takeout for the Upper Gauley at Mason Branch

River right takeout: Bucklick Branch (Take Peters Creek Rd. off Rt. 39 at Lockwood)

River left putin: Off Sunday Road and down Wood's Ferry Road

River left takeout: Off Saturday Road and down Koontz Bend Road to the camp area just below Junkyard

Panther Mountain Road (CR 22) makes a loop from Route 129, evenutally ending up being called Peters Creek Road (still CR 22) and coming out on Route 39 near Lockwood. CR 22 is a state owned and maintained road and it is always open to the public.

The road to Mason Branch (the putin) is owned by the NPS and traffic on it may be restricted during Gauley season. The road down to Bucklick Branch  is privately owned and may also be closed during Gauley season.

There is a field on CR 22 near the top of Panther Mountain that is leased by American Whitewater during Gauley season to provide a parking area primarily for people paddling the Upper Gauley.  When you finish running the Upper Gauley you have to hike up the Panther Mountain Trail to the field. On release days during Gauley season, the NPS has been providing a boat shuttle between the river and the parking area in the field.

Access to the river at Bucklick during Gauley season is unknown at this time.

No Accident Reports



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Midnight Miracle at Kanawha Falls

Charlie and Sandy Walbridge

A Tennessee kayaker was rescued after spending 8 hours trapped behind the veil of Kanawha Falls, a 15 foot drop located below the confluence of the New and Gauley Rivers in West Virginia. The victim was paddling alone; a fisherman spotted his loose kayak and notified authorities. Top expert kayakers from Fayetteville, WV teamed up with WV-DNR officers and first responders to locate and rescue the man. Read their remarkable first-person accounts in the American Whitewater Accident Database:

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Gauley Season 2016 Update (WV)

Mark Singleton

Earlier this summer West Virginia was hit hard with massive flooding. Both the Gauley River and Meadow River watersheds were flooded by heavy rains. The Gauley River set a flow record and Summersville Lake recorded the second highest lake level in its history. Downstream, nearly every boat launch and take-out was damaged to some degree. Despite the flooding, the put-ins and take-outs at the Tailwaters, Mason’s Branch, Wood’s Ferry, and upper Swiss will all be open for Gauley season. Read an open letter to Gauley boaters from the rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area.

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Gauley River (WV) Open Letter To Boaters 2015

Mark Singleton

American Whitewater received the following open letter to boaters from the rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area. The letter outlines important river information for upcoming fall releases. 

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Gauley River (WV) Open Letter to Boaters 2014

Mark Singleton

Gauley season is just around the corner and in preparation for fall releases American Whitewater received the following open letter to boaters from the rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area informing boaters of planning efforts for this season.

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Gauley River (WV) Information for 2013

Mark Singleton

The rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area share an open letter to boaters regarding what to expect this season on the Gauley River (WV).

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Help AW With Our Critical Fundraiser: Gauley Fest!

Jeffrey Paine

Gauley Fest is the world's biggest paddling festival and American Whitewater's biggest fundraiser - but we need your help! Please sign up to volunteer and become a part of the Gauley Fest Volunteer Team! It's a fun and easy way for you to be a critical part of an amazing festival.

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An Open Letter to Gauley River (WV) Boaters

Mark Singleton

The rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area have provided the boating community with a letter outlining what's in store for this year's Gauley season. As in previous years and to help with boater parking at Mason’s Branch, American Whitewater has leased the Legg field for additional space.

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An Open Letter to Gauley River Boaters - From NPS 2011

Mark Singleton

The National Park Service shares an open letter to boaters regarding what to expect this season on the Gauley River (WV) including the recent acquisition of a parcel of land at upper Swiss that provides a public take-out on the lower Gauley.

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Gauley Fest Vendor Registration

Laura Blolock

Gauley Fest is coming up September 17th - 19th and it's time for vendors to send in their registration forms.


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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.
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Imagine the Chaos from Losing the Upper Gauley Take-out

Jason Robertson

In 1996, Representative Rahall sought to help the whitewater community by sponsoring legislation requiring the Park Service to acquire a river access point for the public on West Virginia’s Gauley River. The legislation passed, but in the intervening years, the Park Service has made no apparent progress on meeting the required terms. The Gauley is a national recreation area where you can launch at the dam, but can not get off without trespassing. AW is seeking to facilitate the rapid acquisition of permanent, public (non-commercial) access to the Gauley River National Recreation Area at Woods Ferry, Bucklick Creek, and Swiss. Please help to hasten the Park Service purchase of this land by writing to Representative Rahall.
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Camping and Lodging near the Gauley River

Ben VanCamp

AW has pulled together a partial list of lodging options near the Gauley, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, cabin rentals, and camping. This should give you an idea of what's available near the Gauley. Sleep tight...
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Gauley Access and Camping Rules

Ben VanCamp

There are no federally-owned access points below Gauley Dam. This means that your public river access is provided at the whim of several benevolent landowners who have agreed to work with American Whitewater and allow you to trespass for a few weeks every year on scheduled release weekends. Please take a few mintues to review the access rules for the Upper and Lower Gauley.
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Support American Whitewater through CFC or United Way!

Nancy Galloway

You may be able to support American Whitewater via your local CFC/United Way campaign. Please ask your local campaign what they will allow.
In any case, check to see if your employer will match your charitable contribution - double your money, double your fun!


Charles and Nancy Brabec


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1192917 08/13/06 Charles and Nancy Brabec n/a
1195057 03/31/12 Charles and Nancy Brabec New directions