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!

It’s a rare opportunity when you get to combine two completely separate projects into one, and even rarer when you can squeeze a third out of it as I’m doing right now.

Jon Dragan, New River, 1969

The father of WV whitewater rafting, Jon Dragan, paddles his way down the New River in 1969. Photo: Dragan Collection

Project number one: a non-fiction book about the history of whitewater rafting on the New and Gauley Rivers. As you might expect, such a history bursts at the seams with bizarre characters, larger-than-life personalities, adventure, action and intrigue on the best big whitewater east of the Mississippi. One such character is Jon Dragan, a man many believe to be the father of the commercial whitewater industry in WV. And by many, I of course mean everybody. Sadly, Dragan passed away a few years back, but memories of him are still as vivid as his story, and I’ve been collecting them in audio recordings left and right. Congressman Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV), who was also instrumental in creating the WV whitewater industry as it is, sat for an interview and shared his recollections of Jon.

Project number two: one of our clients is WELD, a small but rapidly growing content marketing house in Oak Hill, WV. These guys aren’t just riding the leading edge of marketing on the Web… they are the leading edge. I was fresh off the Rahall interview when WELD asked me to compose a post for its blog. Coincidence of coincidences (or maybe not!) WELD has a client—ACE Adventure Resort—that merged with another rafting company—Wildwater Expeditions Unlimited—just a few years ago.

Here’s the connection: Jon Dragan founded Wildwater, the first company to ever run paying customers down the New and Gauley Rivers, in 1968. Together, WELD and I came up with The History of West Virginia Whitewater Is People, which includes some great audio of Rep. Rahall talking about Dragan.

Have a listen! If you like whitewater, history, politics or any combination thereof, I think you’ll enjoy it.