Lost River - Whitewater

Made possible by




The Lost River is already a popular kayaking destination when the water is running high.

Written by

Ashley Halligan


2.0 miles


Destination Distance From Downtown

156.9 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

The upper part of the Lost River is a Class I-II river. The lower section of the river ranges from a II-IV, depending on the water levels.

Time To Complete

4 hours

You could spend a half day on the calmer upper section of the river, but the lower section is fast, so it won’t take you very long to get through.


Spring and Winter

The Lost River's conditions are best in the winter and spring. You can paddle the upper section throughout most of the year, while the lower section is only navigable in the winter and sometimes in the spring.

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


Land Website

Lost River State Park



The Lost River is a popular kayaking destination when the water is high, which is usually in the spring after prolonged rain, and throughout the winter (November through April). The river has 2 sections — above and below Wardensville, West Virginia. The section below Wardensville is also known as the Dry Gorge, which only exists when the water is running high.

What Makes It Great

The Lost River sinks underground near WV Route 55/259 and emerges again near Wardensville as the Cacapon River, another well-known West Virginia river. This area is known as the Lost River Valley, and is a year-round destination thanks to an abundance of outdoor activities and beautiful rural scenery. In fact, the Cacapon and Lost River are the 3rd largest tributaries to the Potomac, which is a designated American Heritage River.

The upper section of the Lost River, which makes up about 2/3 of its total length, is Class I-II, with an average gradient of 40 feet per minute. While it’s mostly calm, you’ll still find a few rapids and some rocky areas along the way. The water is crystal clear and the scenery is beautiful, passing by mountains and through valleys.

One of the most loved sections of the Lost River is the Dry Gorge. Experienced paddlers seek out this section out for its elusiveness, and when it’s flowing (because the underground river cannot handle the volume of water), the ride is the prize. This lower section of the river is dry much of the year, but when the water is up in the winter and spring, the lower section of the river produces Class II-IV rapids, which skilled paddlers favor for the chutes, drops, large wave trains, passageways, steep ledges, and occasional obstacles. This section takes skilled maneuverability, and kayakers love its short-lived existence and challenging course.

Who is Going to Love It

Families, birdwatchers, and fishermen frequent the upper section for a tamer adventure that requires little technical skill. Paddlers who seek out the elusive Dry Gorge, though, are very experienced paddlers who are familiar with the course and its challenges.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

To get to Wardensville, follow WV Route 50 to WV Route 42 South. From 42, you’ll go 4 miles south to U.S. Route 48. Follow 48 25 miles to Wardensville. To access the lower section, you can put-in at the WV Route 55 bridge just upstream from Wardensville.

Similar Local White Water Paddling Spots

See all

More West Virginia Activities

View West Virginia

More Lost River Activities

West Virginia Recommendations

Local West Virginia Stories


Lost River

38.956131, -78.805797

Get Directions