Looking to Kayak in West Virginia

For my Fiancé’s birthday she would like to go Kayaking somewhere other than Michigan. I thought West Virginia would be a good state to try. Does anyone have any suggestions? We both own a recreational Kayak and we have only yaked on calm rivers. Also looking to make a day out of it. NO CAMPING.

Looked into the New river by Charleston but have zero experience with rapids. Thank you for your help.

P.S. We would take this trip sometime in mid May.

Leave the kayaks at home and do a
raft trip or rent duckies. The New River is gorgeous. I’m going this weekend to meet up with a group. There are plenty of outfitters. I’d say anywhere in WV is too far from MI for you to drive to and back in one day with a paddle. Getting a hotel?

You might also look into PA. They’ve got plenty of outfitters that can set up inexperienced paddlers with trips as well. I can’t suggest from personal experience there, but there’s a lot of info on their websites.


It will be a weekend trip but I only want to Kayak for one day. They have some trips that you set up camp and finish the next day. We are not campers, we would get a hotel room for the night.

Thanls for the help

Heck, why not try the Upper Gauley — NOT!

Seriously, West Virginia has some of the most beautiful rivers, and meanest whitewater, in the East.

I haven’t paddled any rivers in WV without rapids so take my advice with a big grain of salt. It is based on second and third hand reports and my 1988 copy of “Wildwater West Virginia”.

I would forget the New. The New River and the Gauley River come together at the town of Gauley Bridge to form the Kanawha, which is the River that flows through Charleston. The Lower New has rapids, lots of rapids. You might consider a raft trip on the New River gorge, if you find yourself in the area, and the New is flowing.

The Gauley has some of the meanest whitewater in the East, below Summersville Lake, when Summersville Dam is releasing, or with sufficient natural flow. There are sections of the Gauley, however which are basically float trips, just above Summersville Lake, and on the very lowest part of the Gauley from the town of Swiss to Gauley Bridge. (You could do one of these and go back to Michigan and tell everyone that you kayaked the Gauley). If Summersville Dam is releasing and you find yourself in the area, you might consider visiting Carnifax Ferry Battlefield State Park and going to the overlook above Pillow Rapid on the upper Gauley. If you are energetic, you can even make your way down a steep trail to the riverside just above Pillow and watch in amazement as the hot boaters run a Class V rapid. But I have heard that the flat sections of the Gauley are not all that scenic.

I would suggest driving a little further to SE WV to the Greenbriar watershed. Check water levels and check with local liveries and outfitters before making the trip. There is a 14 mile stretch of the Greenbriar from Alderson to Talcott which I have heard is beautiful. I’m quite sure you can find a local outfitter to arrange a shuttle.

Greenbrier River
It’s in southern WVa. The Greenbrier River Co has a nice website with accurate descriptions of the river as it flows through Alderson WVa. See their website: http://www.greenbrierriver.com/RiverTrips.htm.

There’s plenty of class I water in the Alderson area. Lots of decent lodging in the area, too. If you go, check out the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. Very classy.

I’ve paddled the Greenbrier numerous times and hope I can paddle it again this year. It’s beautiful, and worth looking into.

You didn’t ask about Indiana, but Sugar Creek, which is northwest of Indy, is a gorgeous river, and as I recall, it has long stretches of class I water. Sugar Creek might be a closer option for your trip.

WV is a fine destination for WW
and a rather poor destination for flatwater. The afore-mentioned rivers (New, Gauley, Greenbrier) are all wonderful destinations, but you mentioned rec boats and these rivers range in class from I to V depending on section. The GB is the mildest, so if you have sprayskirts for your boats it is still in the running.

The GB is very level-dependant, and it would be worth checking the River Database on the AMerican Whitewater site to see if it has a sufficient flow. Low water on the GB can make for a looooong day. Been there, done that.

The problem with WV and flatwater is that we have NO natural lakes in the state. There are numerous small lakes (Upper Mud River, Woodrum, OBrian, Hughes River etc) and some larger ones such as Summersville Lake on the Gauley. But I would not classify these as vacation destinations unless you wnated to combine paddling with (insert activity here). The GB River Trail parallels the river, there are several trails adjacent to the New, and the North Bend Rail-Trail is near Hughes River Lake (assuming you enjoy biking).

As for KY and OH, I am not a good tour guide. Perhaps others can chime in.


I’ll second Sugar Creek in Indiana.
Get the right section, and it flows through two state parks, and is absolutely beautiful. Mid-May is still fairly cool here (water temps anyway) and the river dorks are in low numbers. Don’t plan on it after the air temps are over 80F consistently, or after late June. The river will smell like beer after that, and it becomes an obstacle course of drunk, obnoxious renters in canoes and tubes. It also becomes a paddle-drag-paddle-drag event if the Crawfordsville gauge is less than 1.8’, and dangerous for recs over 3’ (the cut off for the rental companies). Check that here:


If you make it before June, I’d highly suggest it, and you’re likely to find me and my paddling buddies there on any given Sat/Sun that it has enough water. However, there’s little else to do in that area.


I would second the Greenbrier.
You could go just above Hinton on the Greenbrier and then stay at Pipestem state park. It has a range of lodging options and a lot to do. It’s a 15 minute drive from Hinton. In the same area, if you don’t want to use outfitters you could paddle Bluestone lake. If you go up the Bluestone river at the campground you can then just float back to you car. Another option would be the Elk river from just above Clendinin at Queen Shoals to Blue, but I’m not sure about outfitters to get you back up stream.

Thanks for everyones help
I have looked into Greenbriar and Sugar Creek and both look great. I looked online at some pictures of sugar creek and I think that is going to be the trip. I appreciate everyones info and thanks for your help.


Good luck with your trip. I’ve paddled Sugar Creek just once and it is on my list to paddle again. Let us know what you think, OK?

Have a good time.
Don’t forget to check teh water levels before committing to a section - teh GB can be bony. I won’t name names, but outfitters are a bad source for river info. “Yeah, the water is great! Come on over!” Riiiiiigggggggghhhhhtttttt.



Or forget the rivers
Go to Summersville Lake and paddle the upper section in the “Canyon”. You will easily kill a day running around those fantastic cliffs that you can look down 30 feet in the clear blue water.

3rd the Greenbriar
Great river for a easy paddle. It has a few rapids when the water level is up. I agree that it can be real bony when the level is down. Pipestem is a great park. If you want to go horseback riding, my cousin runs the stable in the park. There are a lot of great outdoor things to do in WV.

Stang & Kate

– Last Updated: Apr-21-09 8:20 PM EST –

Anytime you're going to Sugar Creek, and don't mind another paddler or three to join/help with car shuttles, be sure to hit my e-mail a few days in advance. And be sure to check the water levels in the link above. It's seriously no fun below 1.8', and really ill advised much above 3'. A skirt is certainly required for any kayaks, and strainers galore come into play much above that. I think 3.25' is the highest I've done it, and two of us nearly got into strainers. Actually, one did get flushed through, fortunately it was only one branch, and I narrowly kept off of the other one that was four logs deep.


Is June too late to paddle the Greenbrier? I’ve been wanting to do a combined paddle and bike trip (paddle down and ride bikes back up the Greenbrier River Trail to the put-in). What section would be good to do this in a day? I’ve biked from Cass to Marlinton in the Summer and it’s beautiful but the river looked really bony.