Cheat River: The Complete Visitors’ Guide
If you’ve heard of Mountaineer Country, you’ve probably heard of the Cheat River, too. Located just an hour from Pittsburgh, this 78-mile, free-flowing river produces fun on water of all kinds. From flatwater paddling to Class III, IV, and V whitewater rapids, the Cheat River is a water sports enthusiast’s dream. With its ever-changing landscape and the surrounding beauty of the West Virginia Appalachian Mountains, paddlers and kayakers alike love spending their days on this one-of-a-kind water trail.
Cheat River Narrows
For water sports lovers seeking a mild thrill, the Cheat River Narrows offer year-round beginner to intermediate rafting experiences for those adventurers seeking a challenge but still learning the ropes. During low water periods throughout the summer, the Cheat Narrows can run as a Class II to II+ section. But, as the water levels rise, so does the challenge. At high levels, this section can be run as a Class III. After navigating three to five miles of challenging waters, you can easily shuttle back, as the river is located just along Route 72 with many places to put in or take out.
Cheat River Canyon
The Cheat River Canyon takes whitewater rafting to new heights. These clean and beautiful Class III to V rapids run primarily from May to the middle of June but are suitable for rafting any time after heavy rainfall and snowmelt. This section of the Cheat River is 13 miles long, taking anywhere from six to seven hours to complete, but times will vary by water level.
Schedule your adventure with Cheat River Outfitters to have whitewater rafting experts on board with you! Plus, enjoy swimming, rock jumping, paintballing, and riverside picnicking for a perfect summer day on the river.
Check out our Mountaineer Country White Water Rafting and Kayaking Guide for more details on how to get your feet wet in the Cheat River. We have everything from difficulty levels to put-in and take-out points.
Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains of northern West Virginia, the Upper Cheat River Water Trail makes up the first 38 miles of the Cheat River. There are currently nine kayak access points on the Upper Cheat River Water Trail. The calm flow along Water Trail provides a safe and family-friendly experience that even your 4-legged furry friends will love.
Its stellar location puts a scenic escape within a day’s reach for much of the eastern United States. The rugged topography surrounding the Cheat allows for solitude – helping you feel the ultimate serenity as you float down the winding river.
No kayak? No problem. River House Boats provides kayak rentals and shuttles. Shuttle fees are $15 per kayak up to 10 miles and $20 per kayak beyond 10 miles. River House Boats will pick up the returning boats in Rowlesburg at the Riverwalk or Rowlesburg Park.
The abundance of smallmouth bass in the Cheat River makes northern West Virginia a go-to fishing destination for anglers. If you want to target smallmouth bass, be sure to bring bait that resembles crawfish, aquatic insects, or minnows. In the colder winter months, smallmouth bass often move to deeper pools. In warmer weather, they may still be found in deeper areas with some current or in areas close to turbulent, oxygen-rich waters like riffles, run, and eddies.
Camping Areas Nearby
Cheat Canyon Campground
The Cheat Canyon Campground is made up of more than 10 acres of level, grassy camping area located alongside the mighty Cheat River in Albright, West Virginia. Three of their campsites offer 30-amp electrical service hook up. The primitive campsites have picnic tables and fire pits. Large groups can be easily accommodated in the campground’s large grassy areas.
Chestnut Ridge Park and Campground
Located in Bruceton Mills, Chestnut Ridge Park and Campground offers year-round modern and rustic cabin rentals, RV site, and tent camping sites. The check-in time for all sites is 2 p.m, and check-out is 11 a.m. Quiet hours are from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. Learn more about Chestnut Ridge Park’s lodging options here.
Coopers Rock State Forest
There are two campgrounds at Coopers Rock State Forest: The McCollum and Rhododendron. Coopers Rock is pet-friendly, so pets are permitted at both sites as long as they are on a leash at all times. Campsites can be reserved online, by phone, or in person at the campground’s main offices. There is a 14-night maximum stay at both sites.
The McCollum Campground is the traditional area and includes 25 sites that are open to both tents and RVs and provides a heated bathhouse with showers for all guests. For registered guests, there is also Wi-Fi available.
Looking for a tried-and-true tent camping experience? The Rhododendron Campground is full of tent sites only and is located in the original “Picnic Loop.” This location offers more camping options in the forest near the overlook. Both campgrounds are available to the public from April 1 through Dec. 15.
Mountain Creek Cabins
If tent camping isn’t your style, then Mountain Creek Cabins is perfect for you! This family-owned retreat boasts luxury log cabins at Coopers Rock. Each cabin features a fully equipped kitchen, hot tub, porch, and fireplace.
Cheat River Festival (Cheat Fest)
The Cheat River Festival, also known as “Cheat Fest,” is a well-loved annual festival and fundraiser surrounding the Cheat River Watershed. Hosted by Friends of Cheat (FOC), Cheat Fest occurs each spring, celebrating the new life that can be found in the watershed. Funds raised from Cheat Fest help advance watershed projects by supporting FOC’s administration costs.
The festival features Appalachian bands and live music as well as an Art Market, nonprofit organizations, and food and merchandise vendors.
The 2022 Cheat Fest will be Friday, May 6, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and Saturday, May 7, from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Read more about the event on our regional events calendar or follow Cheat Fest on Facebook.
Places to Stay Nearby
From unique guesthouses and historical hotels to scenic resorts and campsites, there are several lodging experiences for visitors seeking relaxation after a day on the Cheat River. Check out these nearby places to stay, or browse all of Mountaineer Country’s lodging options.
Places to Eat Nearby
After spending a day on the Cheat River, you are sure to work up an appetite. Luckily, there are various local restaurants and bars ready to take your order. Don’t see something that interests your tastebuds? Brose all of Mountaineer Country’s dining options for more flavors to try!
High Ground Brewing (Featuring summer food trucks)
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the Cheat River?
The Cheat River is a tributary of the Monongahela River in eastern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania. Its two sections, The Cheat River Narrows and the Cheat River Canyon are primarily located in Preston County.
What direction does the Cheat River flow?
The 78-mile Cheat River flows north from Parsons, West Virginia, to Point Marion, Pennsylvania. It passes through historic river towns of St. George, Rowlesburg, and Albright before eventually reaching Cheat Lake and meeting the Monongahela River at Point Marion in Pennsylvania.
Can you swim in the Cheat River?
Yes. The Cheat Narrows have many swim access points that are relatively accessible from route 72. In some places, the water is deep enough for rock jumping with caution.
What fish are in the Cheat River?
The most popular fish caught in the Cheat River are smallmouth bass, muskellunge, and channel catfish. You might also find freshwater drums, flathead catfish, walleye, and black and white crappies.
Interested in attending more than one event this weekend? Stay overnight at one of the many hotels and lodgings in Morgantown. Click to reserve your stay.