In North America

Appalachia Adventure on the New River: White Water Rafting West Virginia

I said something stupid about West Virginia once. I’m sure you have, too, and for that, we both deserve a proper backhand upside our respectively thick skulls.

My buddy and I were driving through en route to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a backpacking trip. We stopped in Charleston looking for breakfast. Nothing local was open, so we ended up at a First Watch before continuing on. Back then, I wrote whatever was on my mind without much thought. I was the despised blogger who shared every thought he had, thinking himself rather hilarious. I wrote, in a post since removed, that West Virginia could be a special place, an outdoor lover’s paradise, but I implied that it wasn’t much of anything at all.

Though I suppose that post wasn’t entirely worthless as it caught the attention of someone from Visit Southern West Virginia who saw through my BS and invited me down to eat my words. And eat I did.

We begin in downtown Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Everything you need in Fayetteville, West Virginia

Downtown Fayetteville doesn’t leave a huge footprint, but there’s one of just about anything you’d need. A theatre, a coffee shop, and good food. Cathedral Café sticks out, housed in a refurbished cathedral, serving up fresh coffee and eats throughout the day. Their breakfast burrito with spicy chorizo sausage is something I’d be thrilled to make a regular occurrence in my life. You’ve also got a local favorite in Pies & Pints, sitting just down the block with creative takes on pizza pies and offering craft beer from Fayetteville’s Bridge Brew Works.

The theme of the trip, however, was the great outdoors of West Virginia, starting off with a stay at Opossum Creek Retreat just a few minutes drive away from downtown. Here you’ve got all the accouterments of a rustic experience without having to do your business in, say, an outhouse. The cabins are nestled deep in the woods, but you’ll find a hot tub on the back patio — so you’re not exactly roughing it, and that was more than okay with me.

White Water Rafting West Virginia’s New River

White Water Rafting West Virginia New River - Visit Southern West Virginia

It really is quite incredible what you can do in this nook of the country. While I opted for some whitewater rafting and zip lining, that’s hardly their main event. In October, BASE jumpers from around the globe will descend upon Fayetteville for Bridge Day to jump off the New River Gorge Bridge for the 34th year in a row. At 876-feet tall, it’s the tallest arch bridge in the western hemisphere.

Though I wasn’t fortunate enough to be there in October, I was lucky to find myself on the shores of the New River during an unusually high water level for the late summer season. The River Expeditions guides were giddy to get out onto the water and that enthusiasm poured over into the group.

I should quickly note that there’s nothing “new” about the New River. In reality, the Ohio River tributary is the third-oldest river in the world, geologically-speaking. Early Atlantic explorers unfamiliar with the river named this one. I can only imagine how that conversation went.

“You guys see this before?”

“Nah, you?”

“Nope, new to me.”

“Alright, mark it down and let’s get moving. This scurvy is killing me.”

Scurvy-free, the New River was as rambunctious as promised. We hit a variety of Class III and IV rapids throughout our three-ish hour journey as our guide hollered, “All a-headin’!” — the command to get your ass to paddling.

Zip-Lining West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge West Virginia

Next on the agenda was zip lining with ACE Adventures, which just so happens to hold the world record of most people to zip line across a line in one hour with 183 zip-liners, schooling the Germans and their previous record of 122 in 2010. Our guides actually took part in the world record win, but spoke of it with the nonchalance one does a little league baseball trophy.

The course was fun and fast with great views of the New River Gorge. But the grand finale is what made the trek worthwhile. Though you can be boring and hop off the platform facing forward, you’re encouraged to sit back, and trust-fall off the platform. You’ll even have the opportunity to finagle yourself upside down, staring at the Heavens above like you’re witnessing the final white light.

After Fayetteville, I’ve come to the scientific conclusion that it’s impossible to leave southern West Virginia without being enamored with their rollings hills, warm smiles, and Appalachia flair unique to the world. As Fayetteville’s own The Wild Rumpus sing, “These mountains call to me.” I can honestly say the same.


Disclaimer: I traveled as a guest of Visit Southern West Virginia. As always, all opinions are my own.

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