Our Story: the Origin of the Rivermen, New River Gorge, West Virginia
The origin of the Rivermen was our founding family's (the Campbells) wild desire to explore, to discover adventure, to share camaraderie and to experience the awesome beauty of nature. Steve Campbell, a world-class adventurer and expert river guide who completed a “sea-to-sea” paddle of the Lewis and Clark Trail, founded the Rivermen in the spring of 1980. Steve’s dream was to share his passion for outdoor adventure and running world-class whitewater with others, as well as to create a base of operations we could return to each day to share stories from our adventures and whoop it up, just like our namesakes, the original rivermen. Howard Campbell, Steve’s father, was the initial investor in the company.
We began operations with two ten-year-old used rafts, a pick-up truck and an old family camper that was converted into a bus for hauling guests. When we obtained our first New River guiding permit, we didn't even have a place to take out from the water—other outfitters pretty much had every option locked up—every option, that is, but one. It was Howard who first had the notion that since the state Depertment of Transportation maintained the road over the small bridge at the bottom of the Gorge, the land directly underneath it might just be public and fair game. Steve asked, and sure enough, it was. So, our first trips took out under the Fayette Station Bridge!
Our first outpost was located on the rim of the New River Gorge overlooking the town of Thurmond. While this was a beautiful location, it was remote and difficult to find. There was no water or sewage available and this location had very little potential for development without a tremendous amount of effort. So, in the spring of 1984, Rivermen relocated its base of operations to a site off US Highway 19 just two miles from the New River Gorge Bridge. This new location provided easy highway access and infrastructure as well as a 16-room rustic motel and about 50 wooded acres of land to develop for camping and other activities.
All throughout the 80s, 90s and early 00s, we ran the river our way, with a wild desire to celebrate life and explore that we always called the Rivermentality. But despite our success, the rafting industry as a whole was shrinking. Many of us knew that the future of rafting the New and Gauley Rivers lay not just in a boat, but in operating world-class vacation destinations. That meant lodging, restaurants and a host of adventure offerings beyond just rafting. To that end, in 2008 we merged with two other world-class river outfitters, Class VI River Runners and Mountain River Tours, to form Adventures On the Gorge, and we relocated once again to our current campus. In 2010, Songer Whitewater joined the Adventures On the Gorge family, and now we're part of the preeminent vacation adventure resort in West Virginia, one of the largest in the country and the only resort located right smack dab on the rim of the New River Gorge, less than a mile from the world-famous New River Gorge Bridge.
Rivermen has always been an industry innovator. We were the first outfitter in the country to introduce whitewater rafting videos. We pioneered half-day trips and shorter “mini” trips on the New River. We were one of the first outfitters to develop an all inclusive lodging and activity resort concept that has become the industry standard today, and we continue to expand our adventure offerings as well as adding lodging options, new lodging/activity getaway packages, restaurants and shopping. From the company’s humble beginnings in 1980, Rivermen has maintained a consistent pattern of growth and reinvestment. Today, as part of the Adventures On the Gorge family, we're the best we've ever been and we will only continue to get better and better as the years roll by like haystack waves.