Initiation Rapid

kayaker Ken Kruger fires up a boof on the left side of the second drop of Initiation Rapid on the Gauley River in West Virginia

Initiation is the first major rapid on the Upper Gauley River. Just after Summersville Dam is out of sight, you will notice the horizon line of the first drop of Initiation Rapid framed by large boulders on both sides of the river. The rapid is composed of three main drops separated by swiftly moving water. Provided that you avoid placing yourself in some nasty areas, the lines are pretty simple and easy to complete.

After passing by some submerged rocks, t he First Drop has a smooth tongue of water going right down the middle. There are eddies on both the left and right below the first drop, but in general the water moves quickly towards the Second Drop.

The Gauley River has, over thousands of years, created a number of interesting death traps, and the first one of note is in Initiaiton's Second Drop. As you approach the horizon line you will see what looks like a friendly surfing wave at the top of the drop. Don't even think about surfing this wave! The water that comes off of the right side of this funnels into a constricting crack between undercut rocks. The bottom of this slot is blocked by a chock stone. This slot has been the site of two drownings in the past and numerous life-changing experiences. Know its location and be sure to stay away. Aside from the ugliness on the right side, the Second Drop has a well pronounced tongue down the middle. At very low water levels (below 600 cfs) the second drop of initiation is not as straight forward and is really worth a scout or even a portage down the left. Be careful!

Initiation's Third Drop is a broken ledge system. At 2800 cfs, you can enter just to the left and the right of a sticky pour over hole at the top.. There is an obvious large undercut boulder guarding the right side at the bottom of the drop.

View Aerial Images of Initiation Rapid

Second Drop of Initiation at 2800 cfs

Second Drop of Initiation at 650 cfs

Third Drop of Initiation at 2800 cfs

Third Drop of Initiation at 650 cfs