Each year in the middle of winter with single digit temps here in Iowa, I get the paddling fever. Our local play parks are either locked up with ice or are just too low for much paddling to be done. This is the time of year I look to the southeast. Tennessee and the Tellico River are always on my radar but this year it has been pretty dry in that area so my search broadened to the neighboring state of West Virginia and the Buckhannon River.

Hannah Ray J

Hannah Ray J and friends

My paddling buddy Marty Colbert, has wanted to paddle the Buckhannon River in West Virginia for the last 8 years, he just hadn’t made it there yet. According to Marty’s research, the section from Tenmile to Sago is a seldom, somewhat wilderness run of fun class III-IV whitewater with beautiful scenery. We were unable to find much info on the specifics of the rapids, but enough to speculate that we could easily boat or land scout and pick a route. I was convinced. The Buckhannon sounds like fun! Marty and I also had our friend Carl Neubauer joining us for the trip and Carl’s father, Darryl, as our shuttle dude.



The thought of paddling a new river tends to elicit fear and anxiety in me, even with my core paddling group. It’s the unknown, I don’t know the lines, what if this?, what if that? The gloom and doom takes over. I also feed off the vibes of my paddling companions. Marty is always confident, always ready to go. Carl is cautious, tentative like me. Carl and I usually need encouragement from each other and from Marty. If Carl thinks it’s a good idea, then I know I can do it! And hopefully that’s vice versa for him.

Buckhannon River with Hannah Ray J

Buckhannon River

This trip was different. I was a little nervous about paddling a new river, but I was more confident in my paddling skills than on previous trips. I paddled a lot this season, tried new play boating tricks, boated with many different people of all skill levels, and learned to face surf. Exploring the unknown, thinking on the fly, and connecting with those around you is what it’s all about. The Buckhannon was our destination but it was the people with me that made this adventure the best experience. And yes, the river was fun whitewater with gorgeous scenery!

Written for RAW


 Hannah Ray J

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