Gauley River National Recreation Area

Location: Summersville, West Virginia

Webpage: National Park

General Description: The Gauley River National Recreation Area protects a 25 mile portion of the Gauley River and a 5.5 mile segment of the Meadows River in southern West Virginia.  Established in 1988, the Gauley River National Recreation Area is primarily for white-water enthusiast.  The only accessible area by car is around the Summersville Dam that controls the water flow in the Gauley River.  The Corps of Engineers increases the flow dramatically following Labor Day to lower the water level of Summersville Lake in anticipation of the winter and spring rains, thus creating the best water conditions in the Gauley River in the early fall each year.

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Impressions:

1) There are no Visitor Centers associated with the Gauley River National Recreation Area as public access is limited to primarily rafters on the river.  There is limited information available at the Visitor Centers for the New River Gorge National River to the south.

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2) As there is very limited access to the Gauley River by car, except at the Summersville Dam, there is really not much you can see of this park unless you are into white water rafting.  However, the Summersville Dam is well worth seeing.  Generally speaking I don’t get very excited about dams, but this is one you should not miss.  On one side of the dam is Summersville Lake some 30 feet below the top of the dam.  This tranquil lake is itself a wonder to behold with its sheer sandstone cliffs all around the lake leaving very little accessible lakeshore.  On the other side of the dam is Gauley River, over 200 feet below the dam.  This makes Summersville Lake the deepest man-made lake in the US.  There are even dive shops at the marinas.  The contrast is amazing.

3) The white water rafting is among the best in the US, especially in the fall when they lower the water level in the lake after Labor Day every year.