Since 1972, River Expeditions’ seasoned river guides have organized whitewater-rafting trips down the New River and the Gauley River in southern West Virginia’s scenic Appalachian Mountains. There’s a stretch of water for all ages and skill levels, from those looking for a scenic float to paddlers craving a soaked-to-the-bone thrill ride. In addition to day trips, River Expeditions also offers overnight excursions, which typically include camping on the riverbank, cooking out beneath the stars, and paying off local owls to guard the food at night.
River Expeditions can also arrange horseback riding, ziplining, mountain biking, fishing, and ATV tours.
A bearded and scruffy Shawn Hash launched his outfitting business 20 years ago with a spartan collection of four bicycles, two canoes, and a pickup truck. Tangent Outfitters now oversees a small flotilla of aquatic craft as it leads guests to all the outdoor adventures the New River and its surrounding valley have to offer. Tubing trips afford a leisurely 1- to 2-mile jaunt down the river, with plenty of pit stops at sunny beaches, swimming holes, or riverside nail salons. Instructors bring a slice of Hawaiian watersports to Virginia with standup paddleboard lessons or teach guests to snag unsuspecting smallmouths with guided fishing trips. The surrounding mountainous trails invite bikers to speed through their dirt-stained paths, and the riverbeds host seven different types of kayak and canoe day trips. Adventurers can stock up on excursion rations at Tangent's onsite deli.
Claytor Lake Water Sports' fleet of rental boats and water equipment lets customers float, relax, and play amid the local wildlife and camera-ready sights of Claytor Lake. Canoes, kayaks, and motorized vessels such as pontoon boats snake along the lake's 21 miles of narrow and winding waterways, where spotted bass swim and test scuba gear beneath the surface. Flanked by lush trees, speedboats race across the water and lure adventurous riders perched atop water skis and other towables.
In addition to renting boats and gear, the staff at Claytor Lake Water Sports takes sightseers on scenic lake tours. They also maintain a commitment to the environment, equipping most of their watercrafts with electronic fuel injections and four-stroke engines that produce lower emissions and brighter rainbows.
Perched on the banks of Smith Mountain Lake, Bridgewater Marina & Boat Rental launches and lends a variety of lake skimmers to pleasure-seeking pontooners. Peruse and patrol the waters for the elusive Bigfin from atop a four-stroke pontoon boat, whose flat deck area gives a surface for chips and dip and heated canasta competitions. Hedonists, meanwhile, can crank hydroplaning into high gear with a runabout ski-boat rental that—when brought up to speed—can quickly dry hair still soaked with Gatorade from last night's solitaire victory. Bridgewater gives pilots a free safety and instructional orientation before launching them onto the lake, and allows boaters to upgrade one-hour rentals to two hours, or even full days, for an extra fee.
On the scenic Smith Mountain Lake, run-about motorboats and WaveRunners create arcing, white-capped wakes atop the water. Nearby, slower-moving pontoons host anglers and picnickers. The captains of each of these vessels owe their enjoyable day to the family-owned Hales Ford Marina & Boat Rentals, which loans its equipment to locals and visitors alike. In addition to pairing clients with the right boat, staffers also perform repairs and maintenance, including winterization for a variety of vehicles.
River and Earth Adventures stands out from other wilderness outfitters by being completely operated by their own guides. Their fleet of seasoned cave, mountain, and water-navigating guides work in tandem with professional ecologists and geologists, focusing Blue Ridge Mountains excursions on environmental education as well as adventure. During all day trips, guides divulge area history and expound on forest and river ecosystems as well as geology in caves whose interiors rest at 60 degrees year-round to keep them free of snowman hermits.
Each trip also immerses adventurers in athletic activity, whether on hikes to summits and secluded waterfalls, spelunking through electricity-free cave tunnels, or rafting and kayaking down the Watauga River rapids. For those in search of extended excursions, guides lead children's adventure day camps and combination trips that further an environmental focus and bottle-cap collections through river cleanup projects.