By DALTON WALKER
West Virginia Press Association
SUMMERSVILLE, W. Va. — Governor Jim Justice traveled to Summersville Friday to designate a “fifth season” in the Mountain State.
“Today is an exciting day” said Governor Justice. “For years, we’ve talked about our four beautiful seasons, and I think we’ve been missing a major one — Gauley Season. The rafting industry has served as a hub for tourism in our beautiful New River Gorge region for five decades, and I am thrilled to be able to give it the recognition it deserves.”
Gauley Season begins when the W. Va. Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the Summersville dam to lower the Summersville recreational lake to winter pool. During the six-week period, the Gauley River — specifically the upper Gauley — has above-average water levels. Rafters experience Class IV, V and V+ rapids on the upper Gauley, making it one of the world’s top five whitewater destinations.
The whitewater rafting industry in West Virginia began in 1968. To pay tribute to the 50-year anniversary, the West Virginia Tourism Office unveiled a new postcard. The Tourism Office commissioned a Charleston printing company to create the vintage-style postcard. It will be used to celebrate Gauley Season and also as a tourism campaign to draw new visitors to the New River Gorge area.
Governor Justice said of the new postcard, “I challenge any West Virginian to do this. Send someone a post card. Invite someone to experience our fifth season.”
The W. Va. Army Corps of Engineers has 23 scheduled releases this season with an extra hour of releases each day from Sept.15-17. The extra releases coincide with the annual Gauley Fest, a festival hosted by American Whitewater on the third weekend of September. Known as the “Rowdiest Weekend on Whitewater” this festival commemorates the derailment of a planned hydro-electric plant that that would have flooded the waters of the upper Gauley.