Gauley season needs a twist. During the fall drawdown of Summersville Lake, the Huntington District Army Corps of Engineers performs regularly scheduled 2800 cfs releases for a six week window. This predictable period of flow creates amazing paddling opportunities on the twenty-six mile stretch of the Gauley River. For twenty-eight years, on the third weekend in September, paddlers have returned to this world class river with anticipation of the world’s largest paddling festival, American Whitewater’s Gauley Fest. This gathering is a celebration of the river, and the community that has developed around it.
Gauley season 2011 is special. Every 10 years the Army Corps of Engineers perform a full draw down of Summersville Lake for regularly scheduled maintenance inspections of the dam’s tubes. This year is the year, and with a larger than usual amount of water to release, the Corps is going to let it flow. 2800 cfs is the scheduled flow through Monday, September 19th. On Tuesday, September 20th, the Gauley River will become a different animal; it will become something that few get to experience.
There has been an ongoing discussion about a high water release during this year’s fall drawdown. It was decided that after the first two weekends, scheduled releases would change from 2800 cfs to 3200 cfs, a slight bump in the Gauley’s flow for the final four weeks. After further deliberations between the Army Corps of Engineers, the US National Park Service, the WV Division of Natural Resources, and World Kayak, a verdict was reached. Tuesday, September 20th will be the result of that discussion, a 4700 cfs release for a brief 5 hours window.
High water on the Gauley is a treat; as the river grows and so do its recreational opportunities. The simple purpose of this release is for paddlers to enjoy the amazing whitewater that West Virginia and the Gauley River have to offer. One such recreational opportunity will be this year’s Canyon Doors Freestyle Fest, a Jam Session on the Canyon Doors Wave.
The water will leave summersville dam at 5:30 am and conclude at 11 am, giving it 4 hours to reach Canyon Doors. From 10 am to 3 pm, we will be hanging out and surfing the Canyon Doors Wave, going for big tricks and best rides with some downriver steez on the side for good measure. On-site parking is minimal and involves the navigation of West Virginia’s country roads, deep into the sticks and the heart of the Gauley River. We will be figuring out a carpool system for anyone interested in surfing Canyon Doors for the whole 5 hour window; however, paddlers are encouraged to run all of the Lower Gauley in order to maximize the high water surfing potential. Another possibility would be to ride the bubble the entire way from the Dam to Swiss for a high water marathon. Whatever you decide to do with this high water release, please be safe and respect this river, and don’t forget to stop by Canyon Doors. Anyone interested in attending the entire 5 hour session please contact me directly.
The entire session will be filmed and an edit of the day’s happenings will be made. There is no purse or prizes, just an opportunity for some freestyle kayaking with the Gauley River community. It also provides an opportunity for a high water run for those of us whom have not yet gotten one. Enjoy this river the paddling that it offers to us all.
Safe travels to West Virginia,
classvkleberg @ gmail . com
919 357 5047