Most likely if you are a boater you have heard of Gauley Fest, boasting the title of the largest river festival in the world. Known for it's big water, big carnage, and big parties, Gauley Fest also serves as American Whitewater's largest fundraiser with all the proceeds from the festival going toward their efforts in river conservation and access. My curiosity finally got the best of me and on a whim I decided to book a flight and check it out.
Driving into the park packed full of cars with boats, tents, booths, and people, I knew I wasn't in Oregon anymore. What I didn't know (until the next day) was that I would need to fear for my life on the river. This fear did not come from difficult whitewater or dangerous rapids, but from the number of people on the water! Coming from the land of steep, isolated creeks, I felt like I had somehow ended up in an alternate reality where my goal was no longer to have clean lines, but to do anything I could to dodge rafts. I knew I was really out of my element when a raft pulled out directly behind me in Pillow Rock rapid and I kindly pleaded for him not to run me over, only to get the response, "Well then stay out of my way."
The Crowd at Pillow Rock Rapid
Escaping the Raft
Luckily I survived the weekend without getting run over by any rafts, although I cannot say the same for some of the folks I paddled with. I also got to spend some time on the river and at the festival with some great folks talking about adventures and planning trips to paddle each others home runs. Good times were had by all!!