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Gauley Fest Weekend

It’s almost that time and one of the biggest kayak parties will hit the Gauley River. Here at Paddle In Pink, we wanted to give you as much helpful information as possible before you make the trip to the Fest. AWA does a great job of laying things out for you so below I am going to sum up the most common questions (all answers pulled from awa). After this section, all our contributors have provided more tips/advice for you.

Common questions and answers:
Q: Can I bring my dog to the Festival?
A: Yes, but you are encouraged to leave your dog at home. Each dog must have a $10 gate band attached to its collar, it must be leashed at all times and the leash cannot be any longer than 6’. Aggressive and/or loose dogs will be impounded immediately.

Q: How much will it cost to get into the festival?
A: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: $30; Friday and Saturday: $25; Saturday only: $20

Q: Can I volunteer and get in for free?
A: For your time you’ll be given a “volunteers only” Gauley Fest T-shirt, tickets for a “volunteer only” raffle, plus the feeling of knowing that you help make Gauley Fest happen! We’ve even got a few more “volunteer only” surprises up our sleeves too. Don’t want to volunteer alone? Bring your friends! Sign up here

Q: What is the festival schedule
A: Take a look here

Q:What bands are going to be there this year?
A: Take a look

Q: I’m a typical dirt bag kayaker, what is the camping situation?
A: You can camp right at the festival but be prepared to not get much sleep. If this is okay with you then here are a few simple rules: Spaces are first come, first serve and no camping before Thursday.

Q: Okay, I would like to get some sleep and I am willing to pay to camp. What are my options?
Mountain Lake Campgrounds is a popular place to camp, another option is Summersville Lake Retreat. Google also lists Ray’s campground of which I have no beta on and their website is a bit slack, but here is their website. A bit further away, New River Gorge Campground:(304) 658-3600, Chestnut Creek Campground: (304) 574-3136, Rifrafters Campground. You can also check into the rafting companies for camping.

Places to Eat:
Our recommendations are food in Fayetteville: Breakfast is amazing at Cathedral Cafe. Tiny place on the right. Facebook them. Another favorite is Pies and Pints. Great pizza and a cool atmosphere. Check out their website. Also check out Secret Sandwich Society.

River Logistics:

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Shuttle can be tricky so ask around. In all my years of running the Upper G, the park service has always had a shuttle truck to take myself, my boat and my crew back to the top. Hiking to the top isn’t my kind of fun. For the lower, the take out is right there, no hiking, no park service.

Here is my run down of this river. I have honestly only done the lower once and remember the play being fantastic. I do plan on hitting it this weekend on Sat and then make my way to the upper. The upper is so much fun. Last year I had not been in my playboat much at all and was getting thrown around like a rag doll but it was all good. For me, this year, I haven’t been in my playboat much again but I have a clue as to what to expect. I plan on being a rag doll, rolling up and smiling. This is probably my favorite playboat run that I have ever been on.

Here is my rapid breakdown of the upper:
Insignificant: I never remember where the holes are that I have to split. I don’t know if many do. But once coming upon the holes, bust ass to avoid them. Once you are around 2 huge hole, paddle hard to the left bank to catch one of the sweetest waves on the entire run. It is a catch on the fly wave.
Iron Curtain: It has this weird curler coming off the left bank and I get flipped here a lot. Last year I did not hug the left wall and actually made it up upright. I’ll try this again this year.
Pillow: I would suggest getting out on the right to scout. First time, scout. But don’t scout forever because it looks worse than what it is. What I do is find the rock from above that is center-ish in the river and I go about a paddle away from it and work a bit to the left avoiding another hole. There is a bit of slack water and then you want to work your way to the right. And I mean put in strong paddle strokes. It wants to shoot you right into the pillow rock (which is to the left of you). If you are in the middle of the rapid and realize the river is sending you there, don’t panic but hang on for the ride. Chances are you are going to find yourself in the toilet bowl; flip and roll up. But of course there is a catch, you have volkswagon rock at the bottom of this rapid. It creates this weird eddie line. Just hang on, set up, and roll. If you paddle hard to the right like I suggested earlier, it will be a breeze. But gear yourself for being shot toward Pillow. It happens to everyone.

nikki @ pillow
Great place to hang out and people watch

Hungry Mother: Great play hole in the center of the river. You will know you are there by the line. I get in the eddie on river right and wait to drop into it. Sometimes this is the only chance I get because with my short little boat, getting back into it sometimes proves difficult. But super fun play spot.
Lost Paddle: Alright, this is one of the more complex rapids.The very top of this is mainly read and run and you will want to eddie out on the right before setting up for the second drop which is the one that really gets my heart going. This is the top of Hawaii Five O and I don’t know the sneak on it so if you want that, ask someone else. The main line at the top is to peel out high of the eddie and hit a curler that is center of the river. Try to hit this curler just right of it. This is a drop and can certainly flip you. You have time to roll up so don’t freak out, just get your roll. There is a pretty serious hazard downstream center of the river. But once you peel out high, you don’t need a ton of speed dropping into this. I take some hard left strokes and be prepared for huge waves and not really being able to seeing much. Once through the big wave train you can head left or right. Plenty of eddies. Next you have a drop that awa doesn’t write up about it but run it right down the center or cut it center left. The last drop has a couple of different lines. Many go left for a boof. I have seen a good paddler get their ass kicked in this hole so I avoid that line. My line is set up in the same left eddie as everyone else but I head to the right of the river (it kind of channelizes here). There are some big holes in here and I read and run it. Be prepared to paddle hard. Once through you will work back left and fight some cross current. To complete this drop, everyone goes off the same ledge and is a fun little boof. Behind this rock it is a crazy eddie line so just paddle through and then celebrate.
Next few rapids: These are read and run to me, but if you want a full description, head over to awa.
Iron Ring: This one I successfully run about 50% of the time. Last year I didn’t have any luck staying upright so you may not want to follow my advice. Take out on the left to scout. This is a rapid that if you are on line, it is easy. If you are not on line, watch out! (Great advice right?) I’ve ended up in the hole at the bottom on river left called Woodstock and it will give you a beat down. I’ve gotten out of it and I’ve not gotten out of it. You decide what to do if you end up upside down in it. The line is a fairly fine line. My experience is the river wants to send you left, which will flip you and likely put you in Woodstock. If you go to far right, you are going to eat it and flip (it’s a pour over). Find the highway and you are golden. Scout this one.
Sweets: I absolutely suck at this rapid and have only stayed up one damn time. But roll up and you are all good here but you will have a crowd to watch you style it, or screw it up big time. This is a popular hang out.
You are pretty much done at this point for any sort of rapids. A little further down on river right there is this small hole that sets you up perfect for McNasty’s. And just a bit further down from this spot is a fun little surf wave on the left. And then you don’t have much left, hit some flat, take out on the right.

No matter what, you are bound to have a good time. Be safe and paddle hard!

Check out : photo credits: Nikki Malatin


I started kayaking in Wisconsin of all places, because this is where I am from. I then moved to San Diego and took on kayak surfing along with heading to the Kern River when water was available. I then made the move to Asheville, NC and have been hooked on this sport since my Wisconsin days. With whatever it is that you do, do it because you love it, not because society tells you should or for other outside factors. Don't simply exist, live!