Paddling the Cheat: Then & Now

In the spring of 1968 Youghiogheny River outfitter Mountain Streams and Trails (MS&T) brought guided rafting to the Cheat Canyon. It’s owner, Ralph McCarty, hoped that the Cheat would build up his spring business, when his home river ran too high. At the Albright Ball Field (now Cheat Canyon Campground) his crew needed machetes to cut through a wall of rhododendron to reach the river. From this start Cheat rafting grew explosively, and by the time I arrived in the mid-70’s it was bigger than fall Gauley Season. MS&T ran eight trips a day Friday through Monday from Easter through Memorial Day. There were eventually 14 other outfitters; our strongest competitors were Appalachian Wildwaters (now part of Wilderness Voyageurs) and Cheat River Outfitters, both based in Albright.

As a rafting river, the Cheat is West Virginia’s best-kept secret. Commercial rafting numbers may be down, but when the water is up it’s every bit as good as the New or Gauley!

The Cheat Canyon before the ’85 flood was a lot like the Yough, only slightly harder and twice as long.

Read: Paddling the Cheat – Then & Now