West Virginia paddling

I am planning a trip next summer to West Virginia. I will be taking my tandem kayak along with 2 small dogs…well, 1 is tiny and the other is looong as he is a rescue wirehair dachshund with long legs! HAHA!!

I hope to hook up with bike and kayak friends to ride and paddle!

I am looking at staying at Blackwater Falls state park and Shenandoah River state park…I see there is a zipline thing at shenandoah area…on my bucket list! Might have to get somebody to watch the kids while I zip down as I don’t think I would remain unclawed by Woody wailing down the mountain! HAHA!!

Can someone point me in a good direction as to where I can paddle NICE slower-moving water near these 2 parks? Not into ww anymore,just nice lil rivers and lakes,something peaceful for the 3 of us to enjoy!

I also love to camp near the water and wonder if these parks have water-front sites…

Any info is appreciated!

I love WV, but…

– Last Updated: Jul-25-15 12:02 PM EST –

..it is very mountainous, in fact I call it "the Switzerland of the Appalachians". I've been backpacking, hiking, XC skiing, climbing and occasionally paddling in Monongahela National Forest for nearly 40 years. Because it has such steep terrain there is not much in the way of large lakes or calm slow rivers. The rivers are rocky and fast, and with the enormous amounts of rain we have had in the region this year, have been running at high levels. Virtually all the rivers are whitewater to some extent including some of the most challenging east of the Mississippi, the Gauley and Cheat. I've paddled the class V Cheat Canyon and you do NOT want to take yourself or your pups on that.

As for lakes, the USFDA site on the MNF lists the areas for non-motorized boat use (several with campgrounds) but you will note that these are all tiny ponds, some as small as 20 acres:


Perhaps that would satisfy you for short outings but you aren't going to make much distance on any of them. The largest body of water nearby that I am aware of is Cheat Lake, to the north over the Maryland border, which is a 13 mile long reservoir. But the big drawback (and it is substantial) is that there are no restrictions on motor size nor wake production so it tends to be a madhouse of jetskis and water ski boats -- not really the nicest or safest conditions for a solo paddler with a couple of dogs., though there are some little shallow coves that the power boats can't visit. Would not be my preference for paddling.

I have not paddled it, but the Greenbrier River is supposed to be spectacular. Being a river, you would have to arrange some sort of shuttle, however. Here is a report I found on paddling one section of it. Notice that even though it is considered tame for West Virginia it does have class i and II rapids, which could cause you to capsize or swamp if you are not equipped to deal with them. Not recommended for solo paddlers:


The Greenbrier is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the East. At high water levels, you can paddle 158 miles of the river for a dam-free, portage-free, week-long epic. Perhaps even more impressive is the user-friendly gradient of the river, which is characterized by easy-going class I and II rapids interspersed with calmer stretches. To find a river this long and friendly in mountainous West Virginia is unique, and the Monongahela National Forest scenery is as magnificent as the paddling.

“I get cussed by other locals occasionally because the river is such an attraction now,” says Virgil Henshaw, owner of the Greenbrier River Campground and the oldest canoe shop on the river. “People used to stop by and point at my kayak and ask, ‘What is that?’ They know what a kayak is now.”

The 79-mile Greenbrier River Rail Trail runs adjacent to the river, attracting bikers and hikers looking for a beautiful but mellow adventure. Overnight canoeists can take advantage of the infrastructure built for the rail trail by accessing the drinking water, campsites, and restrooms scattered along the trail.

The 32-mile stretch of the Greenbrier River between Beard and Anthony travels through some of the wildest country in the Southeast and offers ideal riverside camping.

day one
Launch at the Beard access point off County Road 31 across river from Calvin Price State Forest. Paddle along the border of the state park before entering the Monongahela National Forest. The Greenbrier actually forms the border of the national forest in this region. On river right, you‘ll pass small towns, while the wild Monongahela dominates the banks of the river to your left. This 10-mile stretch is considered the last portion of the Upper Greenbrier, and water levels in mid summer can be low. If rainfall is scarce, expect to drag your canoe across shallow sections.

camp here
At mile post 28.5, you’ll find a primitive campsite with a tent pad, fire ring, and picnic table along the bank of the river. The site was developed for hikers and bikers pushing through the Greenbrier River Rail Trail, but canoeists are welcome to camp as well.

day two
At 15 miles, you’ve got some water to cover, but the river picks up between Rennick and Anthony. Large boulders are scattered throughout the river, and rugged scenery abounds. The highlight is the massive Coleman Cliffs, a 500-foot-high sheer rock wall on river left. Take out at the access on County Road 21 in Anthony.

You might try checking on the Meetup kayaking groups in the Pittsburgh area to see if you could find others interested in joining you. Not that I want to discourage you from experiencing what I think is a fantastic wilderness region, but MNF really is not that great for calm water paddling. A better locale for such outings is Central and Southwest PA and places like Yellow Creek Lake, the Lower Youghiogheny river (where there are outfitters like Hazelbaker's who will shuttle you for a small fee), Red Bank Creek northeast of Pittsburgh (also has shuttle services), Lake Arthur (also north of Pittsburgh but not exactly wilderness), and many other lakes and streams suitable for relaxed meandering, often with nice campgrounds. The book "Paddling Pennsylvania" lists many of them.

Perhaps some other paddlers familiar with WV will have some better suggestions, but if you look at the topos of the area, the geographic realities are pretty obvious.

I have very little experience with Virginia, other than backpacking, so I'm afraid I can't help with that one. But if you are driving from Windsor, you could just as easily route through western and central PA and have many opportunities to paddle on the way to VA.

Free Camping Near Davis
I don’t have paddling recommendations, but you can camp for free just outside Davis along the Blackwater River by driving up Camp 70 Road. Lots of beautiful sites along the water. (Davis is right outside Blackwater Falls State Park.)

that’s a tall order in my neck of the

– Last Updated: Jul-26-15 6:22 PM EST –

woods. We've got lakes: Summersville, Bluestone, Hawksnest, Cheat, Burnsville, Sutton, Tygart, Stonewall Jackson, Lake Stephens- mostly bass Fishermen there. People are nice and friendly. Most likely to see houseboats and bass boats for the most part. Nothing wrong with those places there's just not that much special about them either. There is one stretch of the Cheat near Davis where an outfitter rents canoes and tubes on a mellow stretch of the river at St. George. This is the closest thing for what your looking for.
For the most part we've got stellar scenery and a very scenic state park system but their lakes tend to be very small.

The greenbrier river in the south east part of the state is nice but it is seasonal so not necessarily a good choice in the summer.

I'm in southern wv along the New River Gorge. So I know a lot more about that area. Lots of ziplining there. Some commercial scenic raft floats that are class II, III on the New. I got a buddy that duckies with his dog on these stretches but they definately have ww.

Scenic rec paddling at the Gauley Bridge campground, the gauley river between swiss and gauley bridge, the DNR access below Kanawha falls (really beautiful), hawks nest lake, lake stephens, and less scenic but popular is "the coal river groups" walhonde water trail on the coal river. The elk is nice below Clay for rec paddling but typically gets low in july and aug.

If I were you I'd leave the boats at home and just focus on some wonderful stream side camping at Audra State Park. Other great places that are more primitive are along the Williams and Cranberry Rivers (Summit Lake). These rivers resemble creeks in the summer. Babcock state park has a small lake (large pond) and is highly scenic with camping. Blackwater Falls is nice but not anywhere near the top of my list as a wv state park.

Mount Storm Lake looks interesting on the map. Driven near there but never checked it out. Might have the paddling your looking for but not sure about scenery- beautiful area with a powerplant and windmills.

Welcome to the wild wonderful state.

I suspect this state was chosen
more for the bikers than the kayakers in the group! HAHA!! I want to do both! And their would be BIKERS there too, not pedal ones…motorcycles…lots of checking out I guess!