Special notice: Copies of Whitewater Rafting on the New & Gauley Rivers: Come On In, the Water’s Weird are now available on Amazon and at History Press!

You can read an excerpt of Come On In, the Water’s Weird here.

In 1966 the Army Corp of Engineers completed work on the Summersville Dam and Summersville Lake began to fill, sealing the successful future of Gauley-River running with regular flows, but also forever submerging some of the best whitewater on the river. In 1961, a group of rafters from Pittsburgh completed the first descent of the Gauley, which means, yes, they ran those rapids.

Between that expedition and the completion of the Dam, only a handful of people ran the section that is now deep under water. I am not one of them, and chances are neither are you. While researching my upcoming book on the history of whitewater rafting on the New and Gauley Rivers, however, I caught a photographic glimpse of what I may never see from a boat—the lost section of the Gauley River. (I threw in an Iron Ring shot, too, which is also of the first descent.)

Ralph Krichbaum, lost Gauley rapids

Ralph Krichbaum on a Gauley River rapid that is currently submerged under Summersville Lake. In 2011, a dam-inspection draw down year, will we again see this rapid? Photo by Sayre Rodman, Jean Rodman Collection

Ken Hawker, Iron Ring

Ken Hawker all turned around at Iron Ring rapid, Upper Gauley River. Photo by Sayre Rodman, Jean Rodman Collection

I’m lucky, in that to research this book, I can rely mostly on interviews and oral history from the people who made it—the pioneers of New and Gauley River rafting. I don’t have to bury myself for months on end under archives and articles. During the course of several of those interviews the name Jean Rodman came up. Rodman is one of five people who were on the 1961 expedition. Along with her husband, Sayre Rodman, Ralph and Kay Krichbaum and Ken Hawker, Jean stepped boldly into the unknown. Plans for Summersville Dam were already underway, so the group certainly had some inkling of what was to come. They could never have guessed, however, how many people would eventually run the Gauley River with not even a thought to what lay hidden and placid just a few miles upstream.

I sent Jean an email introducing myself and explaining that there was no way I could call my book complete without speaking to her first, and she graciously began an email conversation that culminated in her sending hi-resolution scans of five slides. Three of those are of expedition members on the first descent of the Gauley in a rapid that no longer exists.

I smiled for a week.

To see the rest of those photos, you’ll have to buy the book when it comes out!