When you think of paddling the world over, northeastern West Virginia may not be on your list— unless you’ve been here. If you have, you know the area is chock-full of creeks and rivers. At the center of it all is the Cheat River, carving a big-volume course through a tight canyon as inaccessible as any in the Pacific Northwest.
What Makes It Great
The Cheat River is a remote, scenic waterway tucked into the hills of northern West Virginia. While accessing the Cheat can be challenging, in terms of its quality, the Cheat is unbeaten. You won’t find a Morgantown or western Maryland river rat who doesn’t think this (semi) local river is the best in the region—and they’re probably right.
The most popular section of the Cheat River is the beginner- and intermediate-friendly Narrows, a 5-mile fun-fest that builds in difficulty from beginning to end. The Narrows never goes past Class III rapids, and, it (almost) always gives you room to deal with any challenges you may encounter along the way.
The best section is the Canyon, a Class-IV wonderland of boulders, chutes, and, in high water, massive waves and swirling holes. Down in the inaccessible, remote Canyon, the Cheat is more forgiving than the Gauley and more continuous than the New, which makes it pretty much perfect. But even advanced paddlers should be aware of Coliseum and Pete Morgan. These 2 back-to-back rapids stretch close to .25-mile, and will, no doubt give you a wild ride.
Who is Going to Love It
The Cheat River is excellent for all levels of paddlers. Veterans even need to bring their A-games when the water gets above 16 feet on the new gauge. At that point, beginner and intermediate paddlers might want to rethink running the Cheat.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
While the put-in for the Canyon is easy to find, the take out is very challenging, but Bull Run Road might be muddy.
To get to the take-out, take Exit 23 on I-68, at Bruceton Mills, then turn south. Follow Route 26 to the town of Valley Point, and turn left onto County Road 15. Follow 15 for just about 5 miles until you come to an intersection. Continue straight across it (more or less) onto Bull Run Road. Bull Run will gradually turn muddy and rutted, and will lead you to the take-out next to the Jenkinsburg Bridge at the confluence of the Cheat and Big Sandy. Reverse that and continue South on 26 to the American Whitewater put-in at Teter’s Campground in Albright.