Spring/Summer Gauley River Breakdown pt.1

Gauley River flows in the spring and summer always prove to be something of a conundrum for most guests.  Their raft guide on the Upper Gauley in September was constantly raving over how great the Gauley was in the spring, yet not only can they never get a guaranteed flow, most people were hesitant in telling them a ballpark date of when to come, being afraid that their predicted date would not work out.  So for those that love Gauley Season and have been wanting to catch the Gauley in the spring, this post is for you. To figure out when to come, you have to understand a little about the Gauley drainage and West Virginia meteorology.  Unlike the New River (which flows from the south), the Gauley flows from the north-east out of the high mountains of West Virginia.  Its head waters begin near the famous Snowshoe Ski Resort in the Monongahela National Forest in four main forks: the Cherry River, the Cranberry River, the Williams River, and the Top Gauley.  These high elevation rivers are all pristine trout streams that flow out of the backcountry.  After their convergence they eventually make there way into Summersville Lake.  Although it is more commonly known for recreation, Summersville Lake's primary purpose is to control floods and regulate the flow of the Kanawha River for coal barges.  So every year the weekend after Labor Day the US Army Corp of Engineers drains the lake through scheduled recreational releases we call Gauley Season.  After Gauley Season, the Corps generally releases 125% of any incoming flow all winter long.  Come April 1st the Corps turns the Dam off in order to fill up the lake.  This normally takes three weeks to complete however it is completely up to spring rains.  When the lake is full, the Corps generally begins to release 125% of the incoming flow again. Stay tuned for the rest of the Breakdown.