Courtesy North American River Runners
North American River Runners
Minden, West Virginia
The New River Gorge in West Virginia is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” and its unique geography makes the river runnable practically year-round.
“New River is a wide river, but there’s one spot that narrows down into quite a steep canyon; there’s all this water flowing in, and it gets pinched, and the rapids are spectacular,” said Beth Gill, marketing director for Ace Adventure Resort, which recently bought North American River Runners.
North American River Runners offers several rafting trips on both the New River and the Gauley River; but “absolutely, hands-down,” the most popular trip is the 12-mile stretch of the Lower New River, Gill said.
Rafters begin at Ace’s private put-in and wind up at the New River Gorge Bridge. During the five-hour trip, rafters enjoy stretches of calm water, punctuated by adrenaline-pumping rapids, as well as two spots where they can climb up to “jump rocks” and plunge into deep pools below. They also stop for a grilled lunch on the side of the river “that’s quite the feast,” Gill said.
“People get a real enjoyment out the camaraderie they share with their fellow rafters,” she said. “About an hour after we get back, we show a video of the trip. You can hear them hooting and hollering; they have that feeling of ‘we did something together, and it was really exciting.’”
There’s no limit on what the rafting company can do for larger groups because it breaks them into smaller rafting trips, Gill said. Generally, a group of about 40 people can run the river together in about five or six rafts.