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Tourists converge in Summersville as Gauley Season begins

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More than 40,000 people are expected to navigate rough waters in both rafts and kayaks as Gualey Season begins.

They come from near and far to take trips on the wild side of whitewater rafting that is unique to Gauley Season.

"Been an annual trip we've been doing for about twenty years. A chance to scare ourselves get out, hook up with friends that we've known for a long time and go down and have a good time," said rafter Dudley Allen.

Allen says that good time does come at a price beyond the actual cost for the trip.

The danger is undeniable, but he says the payoff is priceless.

"I'm excited I've done this over 40 times and I still get butterflies in my stomach and I'm not 21 years old anymore. I definitely feel the pain a lot more when I get off but it's always just a blast," Allen said

Roughly one-hundred eight billion gallons of water are released from the Summersville Dam daily during the season.

But it's a balancing act that actually reigns in danger.

"If we send too much water it causes a lot of issues and possibly more dangerous situations for rafters that are down stream," said park ranger Tony Miller.

A little rafting goes a long way, the rafting season on the Gauley pumps $30 million into the West Virginia economy.

"I mean it brings in tremendous amounts of money to help local rafting guides and help boost small businesses which we really encourage," Miller said.

Rafting isn't the only activity grabbing the attention of visitors.

"I've seen quite an influx of people come out to enjoy these local trails and see the beautiful nature out here in West Virginia," said park ranger David Cooney.

Cooney encourages everyone to practice COVID-19 safety precautions while enjoying everything wild and wonderful West Virginia has to offer.

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