Rick Gusic’s Cheat River Massacer-ence

The Cheat River Festival weekend kicks off with one of the largest, if not the largest, mass start downriver races in the country known as the Cheat River “Massacre-ence”.  The registration and start is about one mile downriver of the town of Albright, West Virginia, at the Cheat Fest South entrance. The race course travels about 10 miles through the Cheat Canyon, dropping at a maximum gradient of 40 feet per mile. All the famous (and infamous) rapids are paddled, including Decision, Big Nasty, High Falls and Coliseum. The front of the pack usually reaches the finish line, Jenkinsburg Bridge, in about 1 hour, depending on water levels while the back of the pack, the slower boats, usually finish up around 1 hour 45 mins.

5K Foot Race

Saturday morning of the Cheat River Festival starts with a 5K run that attracts athletes, walkers and families from West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and beyond. The funds raised support the Preston Rail-Trails Committee, who, with support from FOC, have implemented 38 miles of new rail-trail in Preston County.  Runners start and finish at the Preston County Country Club, cruising along the gently rolling course through the grounds of the golf course, the rhododendron lined banks of Buffalo Creek, and along the mighty Cheat River. Register Here! 

Art Market

The Art Market at the Cheat River Festival  is a semi-circle of high quality artist’s booths located in the center of the main vendors’ row. Come check out a beautiful selection of original work from a variety of local and regional artists. A great day-time activity for the whole family!

Kid’s Tent

Cheat Fest is fun for the whole family! Remember – Kids under twelve enter the festival for free. The Kid’s Tent is a place for kids to learn skills, create crafts, and meet other kids. More information about this year’s theme and schedule of activities coming soon!

Education Eddy & Workshops

The Education Eddy is a space for learning about the State of the Cheat River watershed during Cheat Fest. Speakers will touch on all manner of environmental, science, and conservation topics. Come sit in on discussions, bring your questions and your camp chair, and enjoy rich discussion and learning! Beyond the Ed Eddy, we also have other interactive workshops scheduled throughout the Fest.

Silent Auction

Our silent auction is full of treasures ranging from locally-made jewelry to boats. If you are interested in donating to the Silent Auction, please contact silentauction@cheat.org. The silent auction will be open from 5:30pm on Festival Friday to 9:00pm Festival Saturday, and all proceeds support the work of Friends of the Cheat.

2020 Wildwater World Cup

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.




The Cheat River Festival. This is the kids nature hike, taking place along the Cheat River.

The Cheat River Festival. This is the kids nature hike, taking place along the Cheat River.