Every year whitewater aficionados from around the area descend on Albright, WV to participate in one of the largest downriver races in the country. The Cheat River “Massacre-ence” is a Friday evening prelude to the Chest River Festival that same weekend.

The downriver race provides opportunities for fans and whitewater enthusiasts to watch scores of paddlers shotgun though the starting point under an abandoned railroad trestle on Cheat River. The race starts near the Laurel Highlands River Tours launching point – about a mile below Albright, WV. It’s fun to watch the mass start here, but you can also get good views of paddlers from the adjacent Cheat Canyon Campground or Cheat Fest fair grounds.

With last year’s public acquisition the Cheat Canyon Wildlife Management Area, there’s no shortage of good spots for spectators to hike into the Canyon and watch racers plunge through their favorite rapids like Big Nasty, High Falls, and the Coliseum. Access the Cheat Canyon WMA by turning off WV Rt 26 onto Beech Run Rd close to the Cheat River Festival fair grounds. Travel approximately one quarter mile to the Cheat Canyon WMA sign and parking area on your left. If you enter the Canyon here, then you can follow the Allegheny Trail along the river for great photo opportunities during the race. Adam Webster captured some of the video here by hiking through the canyon on this trail.

This year’s race turned-out nearly 150 participants, and wouldn’t be possible without dozens of volunteers led by three veteran organizers: Kevin Ryan with the Friends of Cheat, Rick Gusic with Thompson & Gusic Insurance, and Barry Adams with American Whitewater. Other major sponsors include Rocky Mountain Kayak, Cheat River Outfitters, Wilderness Voyageurs, and Laurel Highlands River Tours. …and don’t forget – the Friends of Cheat whitewater access fund has been instrumental in maintaining access points at the finish line for paddlers year round.

Race winners and awards were announced later that evening at the Wilderness Voyageurs Outfitter Building in Albright, where the Morgantown Brewing Company provided food and drinks. Join the crowd of spectators at the next Cheat River “Massacre-ance” and start your Cheat Fest weekend by watching paddlers at the at the mass start, or hike into the canyon and find your favorite spot downriver.

Contact kevin@cheat.org if you want to learn more about volunteering at next year’s event.