New River – West Virginia [March 2021]

River Paddled: New

Trip Date: March 29, 2021

Put In

Grandview Sandbar Campground (Prince)

Clear landing with a big parking area, restroom, and map outlining this and nearby sections of the river.

Take Out

Thayer Campground (Thayer)

Muddy landing with a small parking area following a winding back road.

Paddle Length: 10 miles

Paddle Duration: 1.75 hours

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Gauge located in Hinton, about 20 miles upriver of Grandview Sandbar.):

USGS Stream Gage NumberDischarge RateGage HeightUSGS Link
03184500 000 CFS 5.2 Feet 03184500 Gage Info

Our Experience Paddling This Segment of the New at These Levels

At this level the river had a strong current with rapids producing big waves while boulders were rarely exposed.

Paddling Experience

This was a quick paddling experience and at times an intense one. The water level seemed high and produced a strong current so not much effort was needed but with that came ramped up rapids.

Natural Scenery

This section of the New was part of the gorge area in West Virginia with tree filled mountains on both sides of the river throughout. At the time it was early Spring so there wasn't much natural life showing but later in the year it could be even better of a sight.

Rapids

There were four designated locations of rapids for this section with the first three class IIs and the last one a class III. This being said the first class II rapid was the most difficult producing giant waves just following a right bend. The remaining rapids were challenging as well and generating big waves of their own, but without any exposed rocks to avoid.

Grandview Sandbar Campground - Thayer Campground

This section of the New River was part of the New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia.  Tree covered mountains surrounded the river at all times making for beautiful scenery but also some fast flowing water and strong rapids thanks to its steep gradient.  Following a hike from Thayer Campground with my packraft I was able to put in at Grandview Sandbar.  Here there was plenty of room to park and put in off a landing, with a restroom and map of this and nearby sections of the New River available as well.

After inflating my packraft and strapping down my backpack I was officially on the water and starting my first river trip of the year.  It was smooth sailing right away, well at least until I came to the first bend in the river and the first labeled class II rapid.  Maybe it was a higher than normal water level at this time of year especially but this first rapid was no joke.  There weren’t big boulders or downed trees to avoid but there sure were some giant waves, like ones I’d expect to encounter on big lakes.  It was a challenge to hit each one head on or if I could to time it and avoid hitting them when they reached their highest point.  But in my stable and quick maneuvering packraft I was well equipped and managed to make it through this first rapid intact and fairly dry.  Two more class II rapids came in the next hour, but weren’t as trying at the first one.  I did have one left though right before my takeout, which was labeled as a class III.  With the first class II fresh in my mind I wondered how this last rapid was going to top that one still.  And it didn’t in my eyes.  It may have been the easiest rapid of the day with waves much more tame.  It did narrow down some with a clear tongue of a route that had some drop to it, passing between some boulders exposed on each side.  But this was done with much ease in comparison.  Maybe at lower levels this rapid steps up in its challenge or technicality more.  Aside from these rapids, the water had a strong current even in the flatter stretches, but remained pretty wide throughout.  The water matched the surrounding leafless trees of the mountains in a light brown tan color, yet had decent clarity.  Houses brought some new colors to the environment and could be spotted in clusters here and there.  People on the other hand were limited to myself on the river and even for what I could see off of it.  Wildlife were just as absent with nothing but small birds spotted in my nearly two hours on the water.  Following the last of the rapids, I spotted my takeout of Thayer Campground off on the right.  There isn’t much of a landing, more like a few open spots that can get muddy, but I managed.

After getting off the water, deflating my packraft, and packing everything away, my time on the New River was over and a successful first go of the year at that.  I look forward to some day coming back in the Summer or Fall to experience these surroundings with new life showing, and getting on another section of this river when the water levels are down some.  The rapids were the biggest challenge but worth the risk and will be in the future to get another taste of this gorge area.

Here are some pictures from this trip: