The Cheat River, in the vicinity of Albright, W.Va., has long been plagued by pollution and acid mine drainage. So much so that many of the rocks downstream of Albright remain stained rust brown to this day. Since the 1990’s, however, the Cheat has been making a slow comeback, in large part due to extraordinary efforts by the river advocacy group Friends of the Cheat. This year Friends of the Cheat hosted its 23rd annual Cheat River Festival. Cheat River Fest draws paddlers and water lovers from far and wide to help raise money, support, and awareness for the beautiful Cheat River.

You never know what to expect for spring weather in West Virginia. We were told Cheat Fest was notorious for rain. Friday, which happened to be the first-ever Cheat Fest Friday, was a beautiful day. When we rolled into the festival grounds it was sunny and in the high 70s.

It was perfect weather for the down river race. We were able to set up in time to catch the hundred or so paddlers as they raced past the campground put-in. As the sun went down Friday night, though, so did the temperature. It began pouring down rain Friday night as the temperature dipped well into the low 40s. The rain continued and the temperature stayed cold all day Saturday. The Cheat Fest crowd didn’t skip a beat. The vibe of the entire crowd stayed overwhelmingly positive and the stoke stayed high, even as the festival grounds became a massive mud pit. We can’t say enough about the kindness that we experienced all weekend. It makes you wonder what it would be like if everyone had an attitude like the Cheat Fest crowd.
Cheat Fest held up its reputation for being fun for the entire family. The kids tent was a place for little ones to learn skills, create crafts, and meet other kids. This year’s theme was “Water Unites Us.” Some of the activities included a comUNITY scavenger hunt, group mural, and like prior years crafts made with recycled materials and acid mine drainage tie dye.

As always, you could find us holding down the Blue Ridge Outdoors booth, repping our favorite magazine, talking about our favorite outdoors brands, and enjoying the killer music lineup that Cheat Fest is known for. On Sunday we teamed up with Patrick from Blackwater Outdoor Adventures to give back with a Cheat River cleanup. The weather, which called for possible snow, was rough. That didn’t stop us from showing up to do our part to keep the Cheat clean. The water was a little high and fast to get in canoes, so we cleared the banks in Rowlesburg Town Park of all the trash we could find.
To find out more, we encourage you to visit the Friends of the Cheat website and get involved in any way that you can.

Up next we’ll be hitting the 31st Appalachian Trail Days in Damascus, Va. For those interested, we’ll also be participating in a little trail magic on the Thursday before the festival. We’ll be teaming up with Sundog Outfitter – Adventure Damascus to catch hikers coming into town and spread the love of the white blaze. Hope to see everyone May 18-20 in Damascus!

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Like the gear we’re rockin’ ?  Check out some of the brands featured in the images above that support this program! La Sportiva, National Geographic, Mountain House, Crazy Creek, Lifestraw, RovR Products, Sea To Summit and, Lowe Alpine.

Special thanks to La Sportiva and their Nucleo GTX boot and the Stormfighter 2.0 GTX jacket for keeping us dry all weekend long.