This section is fairly continuous class I-II rapids with a few approaching class III especially when complicated by strainers. At medium-high flows, a couple of the rapids have waves large enough to nearly swamp open canoes without full-boat floatation. The main gauge (North Fork South Branch Potomac at Cabins) is located many miles downstream so some guesswork is required to know the flow level. There is no wireless coverage throughout the whole North Fork valley so it's hard to check the gauges online while in-person scouting. The scenery is pretty mountain views in a pastoral setting. Noteworthy wildlife (e.g. bald eagles, river otters) is common. As of 2019, the river has at least two sets of wires strung across it - presumably to keep cattle constrained. The wires were both duckable at medium high flows but be aware. The bridges are easily passable at medium high flows.
It's easy to park and put-in directly at the confluence along Nance Run Rd. For the take-out, there is parking just downstream of the Snowy Mountain Rd. bridge aka Cherry Grove.
On 21April2019, we ran this section. At the time of put-in, the Cabins gauge read 7.4 FT or about ~3000 cfs. It had rained hard the night before and the gauge was slowly dropping from a peak of 8 FT. The flow level was about perfect -- plenty of water to pad rapids but not so much to make the waves too large. We paddled a tandem, open canoe with float bags in the stern and bow but otherwise open. We nearly swamped twice from waves washing into the boat. In the tandem open canoe, we're intermediates and we found the rapids fun but challenging. About half-way through the run, we encountered a set of double metal wires across the river. We couldn't eddy out in time in the class I-II water and we were forced to drive under the wires. We just barely passed, lying flat on our gunwales. A second single wire was encountered later and was more easily duckable.
Rough correlations between Cabins gauge in feet vs cfs:
5.0' = ~400 cfs, 5.1' = ~450 cfs, 5.3' =~527 cfs, 5.5' =~654 cfs, 6.0' = ~1130 cfs,
6.5' = ~1,620 cfs, 7.0' = ~2,370 cfs, 7.5' = ~3,110 cfs, 8.0' = ~4,070 cfs
Permits are not required for this reach.
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If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
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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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