Upper Cheat River Water Trail- Flat Water Paddling

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The Upper Cheat River Water Trail is northern West Virginia's aquatic playground.

Written by

Dylan Jones


0.1 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

132.7 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

Paddling the flat water along this trail will typically be easy during proper conditions with proper equipment. Longer paddling trips are more physically demanding, so be clear about your mileage before planning your put-in and take-out.

Time To Complete

0 hours


Spring and Summer

For flatwater paddling, the Cheat River water level is most accommodating in spring and summer. It flows freely from its headwaters and through the Water Trail, meaning conditions vary. Stretches of the river will typically become too shallow for watercraft in late summer. Feisty paddlers may attempt to kayak or raft high flows in the winter, but conditions are usually too extreme for flatwater craft.

Dog Friendly


The Water Trail is Fido friendly. Happy canines are often at the helms of canoes or splashing around along the banks. Be sure to check for any pet-specific regulations at the access points, and be mindful of other people.

Fees Permits




From its headwaters in the Allegheny Mountains to its only dam near Morgantown, WV, the Cheat River flows unrestricted for more than 100 miles, making it one of the longest stretches of free-flowing flat and whitewater in the Eastern U.S. The Cheat’s prime location in northern West Virginia puts a scenic aquatic escape within a day’s reach from most of the East Coast’s major metropolitan areas. The rugged terrain that surrounds the river, though, will make you feel as far away as you can imagine.

The Upper Cheat River was designated as a water trail in 2013 with help from the watershed advocacy organization Friends of the Cheat. The formation of the Cheat River’s main stem marks the start of the water trail, and 9 well-marked and accommodating access points along the trail’s 38.5-mile length allow for a variety of scenic day and overnight float trips. The watershed’s rich biodiversity and river’s free-flowing waters will provide a truly wild experience as you drift through deep, clear pools, and wide, rocky shallows.

What Makes It Great

The Cheat River watershed is considered a biodiversity hotspot. The region’s display of rare endemic flora, fauna, and wildlife—bald eagles, the endangered Indiana bat, and lots of trout—will add a splash of excitement for anglers and birders.

While the remote path of the Cheat River can provide the feeling of a wilderness experience, several small towns along the trail have unique of businesses you can stop into. It lets you feel like you’re roughing it while still being within reach of civilization. West Virginia’s rich Appalachian history is also on display at various points along the trail and will keep history buffs busy during their paddle.

Paddlers should keep in mind that there are 70 miles of unrestricted waterways upstream of the water trail. Sudden storms or high water can cause the river to rise several feet in just an hour. It's imperative to check water levels before you embark on your float.

Who is Going to Love It

Paddlers with a penchant for mountain scenery and a passion for water will revel in the beauty that surrounds the Cheat River. The calm flow along the Water Trail provides a safe and family-friendly experience that even your dog will love. Plenty of 4-legged friends sit at the helms of canoes or splash on the Cheat’s sandy shores. Naturalists will be captivated by increasingly common bald eagle sightings, and anglers will enjoy the flourishing trout populations.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

You can access the Upper Cheat River Water Trail by 9 river access points. These sites are owned and managed by public entities as well as private landowners and businesses. Please observe all posted rules and regulations and respect areas surrounding the sites to ensure continued access for future paddlers.

Camping is not allowed at river access points, but is allowed at designated sites along the water trail. Seven Islands is highly recommended.

Anglers need to purchase a valid West Virginia fishing license and have it on hand at all times while casting along the Water Trail. Check with the WV DNR for fishing rules and regulations.

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Cheat River

122 Beech Run Rd
Albright, WV, 26519
39.514366, -79.644101

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