Pillow Rock Rapid is one of the most famous (infamous?) rapids on the Gauley River. It’s responsible for a TON of carnage every year at Gauley Fest, a lot of which is well documented – if you’re looking to add some extra nerves to your trip.
The entrance to Pillow Rock is somewhat straightforward, with the river splitting around 2 boulders in the middle. Most people will enter right of these boulders, and then work left to stay away from some nasty rocks on the inside right of this rapid. Watch out for a hole in the middle of this rapid, which can slow you down. After this hole, the current will push you toward the Pillow Rock.
The main feature to watch out for is the Pillow Rock itself. Almost all of the current of the Gauley River pushes straight towards this rock on river left. You’ll want to get as close to this rock as you can, without getting pushed too far left. Kissing the rock is okay, but you don’t want to hit it sideways, or you will have some carnage. Don’t be fooled by the large rock just upstream of the Pillow Rock, if you end up here, watch out. Just downstream of the Pillow Rock is another rock, with a small passage to the left, and a lot of room on the right. It can be tricky to get to the right of this rock, but who knows, you may get lucky.
The best scout for this rapid is on river left.