The following article is a paid collaboration with Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.
West Virginia is known for its mountains and world-class whitewater rivers, and when that wild water tumbles over those hills, hold on for one heck of a ride!
Pack up your kayak, grab your helmet, and get ready to paddle the most epic waterfalls in the Mountain State:
1. Valley Falls, Tygart River
Sometimes called “the last water in West Virginia,” this section of the Tygart River runs strong, even after everything else has dried up. The run that includes Valley Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls in the state for kayaking, is 1.5 miles long with rapids from Class II to Class IV.
Although it’s famously referred to as a beginner route, it’s important to note that the falls can fluctuate greatly depending on season and rainfall, so check the levels before you go.
2. Tomko Falls, Upper Blackwater Falls
Although shorter in height, Tomko Falls is considered one of the most challenging and steep rapids to paddle in Blackwater Falls State Park. The 2.4-mile run through Tomko Falls is a Class V, made up of three major drops, each with small eddies that provide rests and a moment to angle yourself before making your next move.
Note: When you come to the horizon line, aim for the left instead of dropping straight down.
3. Falls at Leivasy, Brushy Meadow Creek
This run is not for beginners or the faint of heart, but if you are an adventure junkie, put this one on the top of your list— these are your falls.
Although some of the rapids begin at a Class III grade, they increase to nearly Vs, hitting Class IV+. The run lasts 1.5 miles and jets over the Falls at Leivasy at the start.
4. Sweet’s Falls, Gauley River
The 14-foot Sweet’s Falls is known for its scenic forest surroundings, especially in the fall. The falls are one of the “Big 5” famous rapids on the Upper Gauley, and named after John Sweet, who was the first to paddle down them in the late 1960s.
Avoid the right bank, which is shelfy, and at the end of the falls, watch out for a massive rock, which the current pushes you directly into if you’re not paying attention. (And you’ll want a smooth ride, because you may have a cheering audience on the ledges above during peak season!) The rapids range from Class II to Class V at the end.
5. Fall Branch, New River
Get ready for the ride of your life over New River's Fall Branch, just upstream from Sandstone Falls.
Even with the two 10-foot drops along this 1.5-mile run, the speed here is outstanding. The complete lack of eddies makes the run incredibly challenging, even for more experienced paddlers. Rapids range from Class II to Class IV, and on very rare occasions, after mass amounts of rain, the upper part of the run features a couple extra waterfalls to paddle.
6. Hominy Falls, Hominy Creek
This run is a long one, beginning at the Hominy Falls on Hominy Creek. The falls themselves are picturesque and short in height but also wide, making for a perfect kayaking run.
Just take note of the trees right below the waterfall, which can pose an obstacle, and keep an eye out for the rocks on the edge. Stay to the right on the descent for the easier path.
The entire run lasts for a full 12 miles and gradually drops in difficulty as it goes. After the falls, you’ll paddle for about six miles on Class II+ rapids, then be rewarded on the final half of the run with an enjoyable float on calm, flat water.
Find more WV whitewater paddling.