Pillow Rock Rapid

whitewater rafting through Pillow Rock Rapid on the Upper Gauley in West Virginia

If you've seen a picture of the Gauley or of one of your friends rafting it, chances are that you've seen them here. The thirty foot drop over the rapid's course, the extreme constriction of the river, and the piling of the aerated water onto the large boulder at the bottom left all make for a very unique and dramatic section of whitewater. Pillow Rock can be easily scouted from both the left and right shores. If you decide to scramble down the left bank in order to take a peek, you will find a great view of the rapid from the large boulders on the bank.

At least as far as rafts are concerned there are two main routes through this one. The first starts through a narrow slot on the right. At the top, there are some knuckle rocks that can mess up your line on the left side of this channel. From here the waterway quickly opens up and picks up speed. You'll want to be maneuvering your way to the left through this section for a couple of reasons. First of all, you'll want to stay clear of the right shore. The water over here sieves under and through the rocks on the bank. If you want to get a dramatic ride up on the pillow at the bottom of the rapid, you'll also want to get to the left to avoid the meat of the hole at the bottom of the right channel. It will kill the momentum that you needed to get over to the pillow at the bottom.

The left route, also known as the hero route, will require some definite moves to the right in order to avoid a visit to the Room of Doom to the left side of the pillow. The current, which pushes from right to left into the pillow, will fight you the whole way down. This line starts through a slot between some small rocks near the shore. You'll want to pay attention to the reactionary waves coming off of the left bank at the top. They will hit you at a funny angle. At low water levels, the left line becomes the easier of the two routes.

View Aerial Images of Pillow Rock Rapid

Pillow Rock Rapid at 2800 cfs

Pillow Rock Rapid at 4700 cfs

At higher water levels the power and size of this rapid are truly amazing. Do not get pushed to the left of the pillow into the recirculating eddy. Water pushes hard into a crack between house sized boulders. Just downstream of the pillow, in the center of the river is Volkswagen Hole, which begins to get quite powerful and rentive.

Pillow Rock Rapid at 650 cfs

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