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Cheat River White Water Rafting

By Doug Kish, MA

Have you always wanted to try whitewater rafting but you’re not sure if you can do it? Then the Cheat River is the location for you. Cheat River Outfitters in Albright, West Virginia, offers your choice of whitewater rafting trips with rapids ranging from Class II to Class V so that rafters ages 7 and up can try their hand at the sport. Recently five Team Compass members decided on a weekend camping/whitewater rafting trip.

About a 2½-hour drive southeast of Canton, we followed the simple directions to Mountain Creek Cabins in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. With accommodations for groups of all sizes, Team Compass reserved two cabins at Cooper’s Rock. We arrived on Friday afternoon and were soon inspecting the Black Bear Cabin and the Whitetail Cabin. Located 8 miles from the nearest highway, Mountain Creek Cabins are secluded deep in the mountains. Surrounded by hiking trails and the mountain stream passing nearby, it was the definition of serenity.

Rodney Long described their cabin as, “The embodiment of what a log cabin should represent, equipped with a television, cable, Wi-Fi, a stove, a microwave, and a shower. It provided all the amenities of home, but allowed me to step into a backyard setting of trees and trails. The quiet allowed my friends and I to hear nothing but the creek when it was time to unwind. I felt that we were truly able to enjoy the beauty and relaxed feeling of being in nature.”
The only thing we needed to bring was our food. Fully stocked, the cabins held soap, towels, sheets, blankets, shampoo, kitchen utensils, dishes, pots and pans. Cabins have outdoor gas grills, hot tubs and a campfire area. After unpacking, we began our first adventure of exploring the area. A nearby bridge led us to numerous hiking trails. We took one of the very steep trails and soon found ourselves deep in the woods among the tall trees. Returning from the trail, we opted to take the short drive to Cheat River Outfitters to get our bearings for the next morning.
On the Cheat River, the section known as Cheat Narrows is a Class II-III rapids trip and its two best seasons are Spring and Summer. The higher water level in the Spring is suitable for passengers ages 10 and up, while the mild rapids of Summer are good for those as young as 7. This trip lasts a half day and uses a variety of boats based on the water level.

The Cheat Canyon section of the Cheat River is at the bottom of a wilderness canyon. This section has no dams to control the flow of the water, so the best season for this adventure is early Spring through mid-June, as well as anytime during the summer when there is lots of rain. This full-day trip includes a stop for lunch on the river. Boat sizes ranging from 4-man to 10-man are adjusted to accommodate the current water level. Rapids on this trip range from Class III-V and riders must be at least 14 years old to participate.
After checking in with Cheat River Outfitters, we had a pretty good idea of what was in store for us. As we were leaving, we were given directions to some areas for the best views of the Cheat River. Back in the car and on our way, we saw a cave in the distance and decided to investigate further. Following the trail, we were at the cave entrance in a short while and ventured into one of the two openings where we met some of the resident birds. Further in, it soon became too dark to see our way and we had to retreat back out into the light.

Returning to our home-away-from-home in the woods, it was time for dinner. Thomas Welch was the “grillmaster” in our group and prepared a choice of hamburgers and hot dogs on the outdoor gas grill. After dinner, we moved to the campfire area in back of the cabin near the creek. Now everyone knows a campfire is not complete until you make s’mores and ours was no exception. A nearby picnic table provided a place for supplies, while stumps and logs offered seating around the campfire. With clear skies above, thousands of stars kept us company and at one point a shooting star crossed above us providing nature’s fireworks.

On Saturday morning, indoor chef Joe Cartwright manned the well-equipped kitchen to make us a hearty breakfast to fuel up for the day. Excited to begin our adventure, we arrived at Cheat River Outfitters at 8:30 am where we were fitted with helmets, wetsuits, booties, water shields and life vests for the trip. After some safety instructions and a pause for a photo, four groups of people proceeded to their individual rafts, along with their respective guides. More instructions and then each group carried their raft to the launch area. After the raft was put into the water, our guide instructed us about maneuvers to paddle, to turn and to back the raft up if it became necessary. Our guide, Dan, advised he had been a guide on various West Virginia whitewater raft trips for over 20 years and as we paddled, he told us numerous stories of his adventures.
While the river is very calm at the start, it quickly becomes thunderous with swells and rapids. An unusual characteristic of the Cheat River is after the first few miles, there are no access roads and no commercial or residential activity nearby. Deer and bear have been seen crossing the river but those are the only inhabitants of the area. As we proceed downstream, huge trees line the banks and there are breathtaking views of the mountains. After about three hours of negotiating the Decision, Beech Run, Big Nasty, Even Nastier, Doldrums, Prudential Rock, Cue Ball, Tier Drop, High Falls, and Maze rapids, we met the Coliseum. Due to significant rainfall before we arrived, most rapids were Class IV. The Coliseum is a Class V rapid that whips you left and right without much notice.

At that point we pulled over to the shore for our lunch stop. There are several suitable areas along the river for the lunch stop and although it is usually about half-way through the trip, ours was delayed a bit due to high water levels which eliminated some areas. After a variety of sandwiches, snacks, fruits and beverages, a short rest period, and some photos to remember the moment, we took off again for the final leg of the trip.

Passing through the Pete Morgan’s rapid the first time, guide Dan suggested we back our raft up and travel through it a couple more times to experience its extreme power. The final rapid section was Jenkinsburg Bridge. At the bridge, Dan stated the final section of water was very calm and anyone wanting to could get out of the raft, into the water, and float down the river. Another ten minutes or so and we arrived at our final destination and maneuvered the raft over to the shore.

Despite a couple of dunks in the water for some of us, we all agreed it was an incredible outdoor adventure and would all certainly do it again. “I have done whitewater rafting in Colorado, but it was nothing like this,” said Josh Smith.

After a 45-minute bus ride back to the launch area, we shed our wet gear and thanked our guide for a safe return. We viewed the amazing photos and a video of our adventure, and visited the gift shop to get the mandatory souvenir t-shirt – like the one stating “Cheat River Swim Team” aptly titled for anyone thrown out of the raft. During the drive back into the woods we passed numerous deer along the way. At the cabins, we immediately hit the hot tub to ease some very tired muscles. Soon it was time to fire up the grill for dinner. Since the weather did not cooperate for another campfire, we spent the rest of the evening on the covered porch and then inside the cabin recapping the day’s events.

Long said of the trip, “This was my first time rafting and the Cheat River Outfitters crew ensured I felt safe, comfortable, and most of all, had a great time. A seven-hour white water rafting trip may seem intimidating, but our crew leader, Dan, was the best guide I could have hoped for, combining safety with excitement and humor, but becoming all-business when necessary. Having the opportunity to raft on the Cheat River was an amazing experience, made even more memorable by comfortable lodging and great friends.”
On Sunday morning, we finished breakfast and took another hike into the woods for more photos and lasting memories. Although we were told there were bear in the area, we never saw any during our weekend stay. Soon it was time to return to our everyday lives and we started for home. Smith commented, “Mountain Creek Cabins is truly a class act. With a view that takes your breath away, the creek running through the area, the hot tub and the 21st century luxury of the cabin, it allows you to get away from the rest of the world.”

Describing the weekend, Welch said, “Mountain Creek Cabins was a great place for a relaxing weekend getaway — off the beaten path, quiet, and homey. The Cheat River Outfitters crew made you feel like family, hospitable and friendly. Our guide for the trip made sure we enjoyed it.”

Cartwright described the trip as, “Truly amazing. The cabins were completely secluded from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Besides some friendly waves from neighbors, all you see are beautiful trees and an amazing creek running just 50 feet from the back of the cabin. The cabins were very well maintained and fully stocked. The grill and hot tub were icing on the cake for this great weekend.” Another novice rafter, he commented, “What an awesome rafting trip! We had an unbelievable guide who knew exactly were to take us through the rapids keeping us safe, yet giving us the challenging spots we requested. The entire staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced. Our guide Dan made it an exceptional trip.”

My thoughts on this experience — while I always look forward to the annual Compass Media adventure, this year’s trip exceeded all expectations. The abundant rainfall prior to our arrival contributed to the higher river water level and the rapids being more exciting. The unique accommodations with the sound of the flowing creek right outside the door, the outdoor hot tub, a covered back patio and campfire area were amazing. Although all the rivers in West Virginia are beautiful, the Cheat River area has something for everyone. Cheat River Outfitters offer an array of amazing rafting trips. But if whitewater rafting is not something that interests you, a quiet mountain retreat at Mountain Creek Cabins is surely something everyone can enjoy. For more information, visit their websites at and

To experience our Cheat River adventure check out our youtube videos at

Cheat River White Water Rafting

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