The Best Fall Whitewater: Gauley River, West Virginia

Best for rednecks and carnage

The Gauley River.     Photo: U.S. Navy

Anyone who’s spent a lot of time on rivers will have a Gauley story. The Gauley, which runs for six weekends in the fall, is the biggest, gnarliest, and arguably most fun river on the East Coast. Guides, kayakers and river bums from across the country make the pilgrimage to West Virginia each fall to run the Class V rapids of the Upper and Lower Gauley. You’re going to have an audience, and there’s a good chance you’re going to flip, especially at Sweet’s Falls. On days when the Gauley doesn’t run, the neighboring New River, the oldest in the country, is a serious stretch of whitewater as well.

For non-rafting days, the New River Gorge has world-class sport climbing. Fayetteville, the region's main social hub, is home to a surprisingly large number of good restaurants, including Cathedral Café, whose sweet potato pancakes are almost as well known as the river. For a real West by-God Virginia experience, hit the drive through at Tudor’s Biscuit World. Don’t miss Gauley Fest, the biggest river-oriented party in the country: river people who have been living in their vans for six months aren't afraid of a good time.

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