Share |

Saturday, September 26, 1998 -- Summersville
Gauley Festival
This story and the photos contributed by Eric DeBoni.

01
Summersville Dam pumping out 2350 cubic feet per/second of raging energy
Its late September in Nicholas County, the weather is becoming a touch chillier and the leaves are turning their fall shades. Cars, trucks, and vans, all carrying a rainbow of colored kayaks are cruising south on US Route 19. Yes, it must be Gauley season. You arrive at a normally quite Nicholas County Veterans Memorial Park, to find it has become tent city. What it going on here? Gauley Festival is the answer.

Gauley Festival is a whitewater enthusiast's dream. If you're into shopping for river gear, or just plain partying with river folks, you've come to the right place. This annual event began in 1983 by the Citizens for the Gauley River who were fighting a battle to block a hydro-electric project which would have interrupted whitewater river flows. American Whitewater has now become the organizer of this great event.

02
A Raft full of guests tearing up Pillow Rock
The festival itself is a kayakers shopping center. If a kayak is what your looking for you should have no problem. Perception, Wave Sport, Dagger and many of the other big manufacturers were on site. Most of the boats were reseasonably priced. New boats were running you around $625. Good used boats ran on the average around $400. I saw a wide range of squirt boats and wildwater boats for sale. Resin Heads and Grateful Heads had some excellent prices on helmets. The average helmet ran around $60. Fleece was inexpensive and all around. Once you made the loop around to all the tents and purchased what you came for it was time to move on to the evening activities. Some local bands were jamming in the background and the smell of food was in the air.

03
A rare C1 attacking the rapids at Pillow Rock
Most of my evening was spent at the Shredder tent. The Shredder tent is an inflatable tent that was crafted by Tom Love, the creator of the Shredder. Most of the crew hanging out there were from Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. Most of the evening we talked about our days adventure on the Upper Gauley River, and to be honest what would the Gauley Festival be without at least a trip down the river.

04
Shredders and kayaks sharing an eddy below Lost Paddle
Saturday morning, 12 of us meet at the Summersville Dam for our journey down the Upper. The watercraft of choice was the Shredder. The shredder is an inflatable pontoon raft with elevated self-bailing floors. We had 4 two-man shredders, and 2 four-man shredders. The shredder steers and tracks much better than a traditional raft. The shredder also seems to punch holes much easier than rafts. So, there we were sitting in the parking lot pumping up Team Shredder getting ready to put on at the Summersville Dam. The flow rate was 2350 cfs (cubic feet per/second), which was a pretty fair flow water. The first class 5 rapid, Insignificant, was run perfect by team Shredder. Pillow Rock rapid, the next class 5, was run with the same perfection, no carnage yet. We decided to stop here and enjoy some refreshments and goodies while watching for rafting excitement. While sitting above the Room of Doom, which is a small eddy formed at the top left of Pillow Rock, we saw a raft flip and dump all the guests into the Room. The swim looked pretty harmless. The big kayak move was to catch the eddy and then to peel back into the current. If a kayaker made it in, a big applause from the crowd would always get the kayaker pumped. The shredders were parked in the eddy down below Pillow Rock, so what better way to get there than to jump off pillow rock into the rapid and woosh down to our crafts. Lenny and I did flips off the rock, While the most of team Shredder took cautious jumps into the rapid, Lenny and I took the opportunity to do front flips off the rock. What a rush that was.

05
Rob Anderson and Allen James peeling out with their 4-man Shredder
Lost Paddle the third class 5 came up next. Once again no carnage. Iron Ring the fourth class 5 proved to be the most exciting. Lenny, Chris and I went first. We got to far left and ended up suspended on Woodstock Rock right above Woodstock Hole. We looked 10ft down into a fierce hole, dreading the fact that we were definitely going to drop into it. Sure enough we dropped sideways right into it. The hole started surfing us, thank goodness we all knew to high side to keep from flipping. The crowd sensed disaster. The crowd noise grew. Here we are in one of the holes you don't wont to be in. Just as the back end of the shredder starts to back-ender us over, Rob and Allen come boofing off the side of Woodstock heading right on top of us. For a moment we had an 8-man shredder. The crowd went crazy. We had survived and exited the hole intact. One of the 2-man shredders came floating by us upside down while we were congratulating ourselves on our conquest. Iron ring definitely proved the most exciting for many.

TheCrew
The Team Shredder crew at the day's end
With one big class 5 left, Sweets Fall, we decided to up the ante. The wager was whoever flips at Sweets has to buy a case of beer for the evening's celebration. First four shredders were clean. One hope left, the Michigan Boys. We couldn't have planned it better. The Michigan boys provided us with entertainment and beverage for a relaxing evening.

EricMartin
Eric Martin and Booth Supreme Ruler KAT relaxing after the Gauley journey
Our Upper Gauley trip and Gauley Fest day was full of excitement and thrills. I can only hope that everyone gets the opportunity to enjoy a day on the Upper and a trip to Gauley Festival at least once on their adventures through West Virginia. Special thanks go out to Eric Martin and Widerness Voyaguers for providing our four-man Shredder.