Learn How Gauley River Rapids Are Named with Class VI River Runners

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Class VI River Runners in Lansing, W. Va., is gearing up for this year's Gauley Season. Guides and staff are ready to explain how a Class-IV plus rapid could be named Insignificant and just who Sweet's Falls is named for. Whitewater rafting enthusiasts who want to challenge their skills, enjoy the river and discover why so many guests return each fall can make reservations now.

Experienced rafters may choose the more challenging Upper Gauley trip which is a 13-mile section with primarily Class IV and V rapids while enthusiastic beginners and advanced rafters often select the 15-mile Lower Gauley with rapids in the Class III and IV ranges.

People can guess how Lost Paddle or Pure Screaming Hell on West Virginia's Gauley River get their names during the fall Gauley Season. But how could anyone call a Class IV-plus rapid "Insignificant"? Class VI-Mountain River (http://www.class-vi.com) whitewater rafting outfitters knows and their guides will share the inside scoop with rafting guests during Gauley Season.

"There's more to running the river than the exhilarating ride," said Dave Arnold, Class VI-Mountain River managing partner. "There's the incredible scenery, the tales that every experienced guide has to share, and the naming of the rapids."

Class VI-Mountain River offers it all when Gauley Season starts Sept. 5 this year and runs through Oct. 19.

"The fun of Gauley Season begins with the choice of two great trips," said Arnold. "Experienced rafters may choose the more challenging Upper Gauley trip which is a 13-mile section with primarily Class IV and V rapids while enthusiastic beginners and advanced rafters often select the 15-mile Lower Gauley with rapids in the Class III and IV ranges."

The rapids are classified by difficulty of navigation, with Class I being the least difficult and Class V being most difficult.

While some rapids have names, these aren't the only ones rafters encounter as they take on the Gauley River during the special fall season. According to the National Park Service, which maintains the Gauley River National Recreation Area, the river drops more than 668 feet through 28 miles of rugged terrain and features more than 100 rapids.

And that's not insignificant! However, Insignificant is the first major Class V rapid on the Upper Gauley trip.

This big, long rapid is the first of the Gauley's big drops. It got its name when a 1968 exploratory rafting party completed the trip at a lower-than-normal flow rate and reported "no significant rapids" upstream of Pillow Rock.

Iron Ring is another Class V rapid with a name that is historic. Loggers in the early 1900s tried to blast the rock out to make a log flume and set an iron ring in place on the rock as part of the logging operation. The ring was stolen in 1988.

Sweet's Falls is no piece of cake. It's a Class V rapid named for John Sweet, who was the only person to run this drop on a 1968 exploratory run. He made the trip through the rapid in a C1, which is a covered whitewater canoe made for aggressive whitewater. Prior to his success, others carried their boats or took other routes around the falls.

For the record, the first successful Gauley River trip took place on Memorial Day weekend in 1961 when Jean and Sayre Rodman navigated the river. John Sweet took his trip 40 years ago on Labor Day 1968, using information from the Rodmans' trip.

Fall Gauley Season comes to whitewater enthusiasts courtesy of the United States Congress that passed a law mandating recreational whitewater dam releases. In West Virginia, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides a series of twenty-three controlled releases from the Summersville Lake on successive weekends, beginning the weekend after Labor Day.

About Class VI River Runners
Class VI River Runners is a premier adventure outfitter that offers whitewater rafting experiences for ages 6 to 68 on the New and Gauley rivers in southern West Virginia. The company has been in the whitewater rafting business from more than 35 years and has hosted more than 500,000 guests during that time. Class VI has whitewater rafting packages for one, two and three day trips for rafters who want to experience the Gauley and New rivers during September and October.

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Caryn Gresham

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