Difficulty: Class 4-5+
Reccomended Season: Flows are restricted to days when the Summerville Dam is
releasing water, usually in September and October. Monstrous waves! House-sized boulders! Rooms of Doom! It's HUUUGE!!!
Most outfitters on the Gauley require previous Class 4 rafting experience before taking paddlers down the upper Gauley. There's a good reason.
The upper Gauley is even bigger and meaner that the New River, and it's widely considered among kayakers as the measuring stick for "expert" status.
A bit O' history: Over the years, whitewater paddlers have argued among themselves as to which rivers in the Southeast are the most difficult -- Gauley, Green River, Russell Fork, Overflow Creek. However, for sheer abusive power, there is simply nothing around that compares with the violence of 3,600 cfs blasting down the Gauley's undercut streambed. As brute force goes, the upper Gauley is simply in a class by itself.
Be warned: Chocked full of undercut boulders and raft-flipping waves. Make sure your insurance is paid!