Introduction

The Cheat River is one of the longest undammed watersheds in the Eastern USA, running through the Allegheny Mountains to the confluence with the Monongahela, creating a ribbon of beautiful whitewater in sparsely populated areas. As such, the whitewater sections of the Cheat River became a destination for canoeists and kayakers, and home to a thriving rafting industry over 50 years ago. The river was the birthplace of squirt kayaking, which in turn lead to the development of low volume kayaks now used to race in the Olympics.

In 1994, the T&T Mine flooded the Cheat Canyon with acid mine drainage, ruining the water quality, killing wildlife for many miles and gutting the local rafting industry. Since then, many individuals and a number of organizations including our partners, Friends of the Cheat, have worked tirelessly to clean up the Cheat Canyon and protect it in the years to come. Although some tributaries still add pollution to the Cheat River the water quality has improved dramatically, numerous easements protect natural habitats along the Cheat Canyon, and developments are being made to increase the accessibility of the Cheat River to the public. Therefore, it is time to celebrate the recovery of the Cheat by inviting paddlesports athletes from all over the world to race in 2020.

Wildwater, or Downriver, racing is the simplest form of canoe sport, pitting competitors in single or double canoes or kayaks against the clock on natural whitewater courses of 2 lengths: Sprint (4-800m) and Classic (2-15 miles). The Cheat River has hosted downriver races for over 40 years, but it was the advent of the Cheat Canyon Downriver Race, held on the eve of the annual Cheat Festival, that really introduced racing on the most difficult section of the river, the 12 mile Canyon. The Cheat hosted an international ranking race in 2019, and will host a 4 race World Cup Series in 2020. The last set of multiple World Cups held outside of Europe was in 2009, in Tasmania, Australia, and Wildwater World Cups have not been held in the USA since 2003, and have never been held in the Eastern USA. Therefore, this is a unique opportunity to celebrate the Cheat River and witness some of the best and fastest whitewater paddlers in the world compete locally.