Canoeing the New River

3 Days – 3 Rivers
Day 3 – July 7th
The New River

The paddles left ever-expanding rings of ripples across the New River’s mirrored surface. My wife and I barely spoke as we absorbed the gorgeous views of the lake-sized pool of water where the New and Gauley meets to form the Kanawha. This is my favorite body of water and it is where I chose to canoe to celebrate my birthday. We paddled across slowly to enjoy the peacefulness only found in a canoe and to conserve our energy for the harder paddling later in the day.

We reached our first rest stop across the river at “catfish heaven.” We explored on foot. We sat in the shade. We even caught a few small-mouth bass in the shallow waters of a few coves. There are countless beauties and wonders here. I detailed quite a few of them in a short creative non-fiction story a few years ago. Maybe one day I’ll post it here. It is full of interesting West Virginia history about the New River.

Our next goal was to paddle upriver through pretty swift current. I wanted to explore the section of river upstream for an upcoming canoe/camping trip planned for later in the month. The paddling proved to be more difficult than I expected. In retrospect, asking my seven-month pregnant wife to paddle this with me was somewhat inconsiderate. But she handled it with grace and proved her mettle as we slowly made progress further and further up the river.

We finally passed through the swift current and the volatile water. Immediately, the water slowed and became beautiful deep pools trapped between massive boulders that fell from the tops of these mountains thousands of years ago. The water had an eerie quality that I’ve only found at this section of the river. The surface had a surreal stillness that seemed to obscure the massive volume of water and current hidden below it. It was lovely to paddle but I was extra-cautious as this water seemed to be waiting for a drowning victim. The water was deep and dark green. Occasional large boulders would be visible at what appeared to be just below the surface. Often, we’d see schools of minnows around the edges of these boulders but no large fish made themselves known. Almost as if to preserve the tranquility and ferocity of the river, Misti and I barely spoke as we slowly paddled our way further up the river.

Eventually, we reached the turn-around point for the day’s trip. The river’s current increased. Countless rocks and boulders obstructed every path for our canoe. I got out and pulled the canoe onto a flat boulder enough that Misti could get out as well. She explored as much or more than a near-term pregnant woman could as I pushed further up the river to determine where the next pool was located. I knew that after my next visit here, I’d be carrying the canoe across these rocks until I reached the next pool and could paddle again. Several of my friends, family and I had planned a trip to the semi-secretive “blue hole” later in the month and this was my first real obstacle of getting there.

Misti and I slowly eased our way back down the river. I didn’t paddle other than to occasionally steer around a boulder or shallow water. We lazily crept through the eerie water. We sped through the fast current with no effort. Slowly, we passed catfish heaven and paddled back across the river to our Land Rover. We both paddled hard , enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the New River and the mountains around it, and found that paddling together, on any river, is a great way to spend a birthday (or any other day.)

The New


5 thoughts on “Canoeing the New River

  1. I look forward to paddling with you this coming summer. Would love to make it a 2 or 3 day trip, maybe on the New or even way up the Elk.

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