Sweet's Falls Rapid

whitewater rafting through Sweet's Falls Rapid on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia

The last of the Upper Gauley 's Big Five Class V Rapids is located about ten miles below the dam. The fourteen foot falls were named after John Sweet for his first descent of them in 1968. The broken ledge system that forms this powerful rapid provides some options regarding different lines and also numerous hazards.

The main entrance is on the right side just off of the shore where you will punch through a couple of foamy waves. From there, the current quickly carries you toward the horizon line. Stay away from the shelfy right bank. It is undercut from the entrance of the rapid all the way to the edge of the falls, and the water that washes over the right channel pours onto jagged rocks and sieves through the massive boulders at the bottom. Upon approaching the falls, you will first want to notice the rooster tail spouting mist on the left side of the drop at the bottom of the crease in the horizon line. The roostertail is formed by a rock projecting from the ledge about half way down the drop. It promises to bring a serious attitude adjustment to all who find it, so be wary and remember that the water pushes from right to left as it approaches the ledge.

To the right of the crease, the current builds up onto and over the ledge that forms the falls. At the bottom of this vertical drop is a powerful and shallow recirculating hydraulic. At higher flows (4000+ cfs.), this turns into a terrible pour-over as a great portion of the river water pounds over the ledge instead of pillowing off of it and left into the crease.

The water going over the main part of the drop generally falls from right to left as it pillows off of the higher section of the ledge on the right and into the crease. For the picture perfect line over the falls, you will be searching for the coveted green hump at the top right of the crease from where you will slide down the sloping green tongue and slam into the frothy aerated water at the bottom of the drop. There is a fifteen foot margin of error that separates a successful line from fireworks and flying bodies, so know thy line and execute. Good luck.

The ride's not over at the base of the falls as you'll immediately have to take some evasive action to avoid the large boulder blocking the left side of the river. The main current rushes directly towards it. It is aptly named Postage Due, because on a busy day it is not uncommon to see rafts stamped onto its upstream face. Those who wash to the left of Postage Due will find themselves in the Box Canyon.

View Aerial Images of Sweets Falls Rapid

Sweet's Falls Rapid at 2800 cfs

Sweet's Falls Meltdown Line at 2800 cfs

Sweet's Falls Rapid at 4700 cfs

At higher water levels, the ledge hole on the right side of Sweets Falls extends further out into the drop than at fall levels. People who run the main line will have to set a hard left hand angle and punch the hole at the bottom. The channel to the left of the ejector rock begins to widen and makes for a smooth line through the falls.

Sweet's Falls Rapid at 800 cfs

Sweet's Falls Rapid at 300 cfs